Group eyes building organic transfer station in North Hartland

  • Lisa Ransom of Grow Compost Vermont talks about the making of compost at its facility in North Hartland, Vt., on Nov. 14, 2018. Behind her is a windrow of percolating compost. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A windrow of compost and piles of organic matter sit at Grow Compost Vermont in North Hartland, Vt., on Nov. 14, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, March 14, 2019

NORTH HARTLAND — Officials say the construction of an organic transfer station in North Hartland could help ease a pending shortage of compost facilities in the Green Mountain State.

The Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District recently received a $162,197 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to build the transfer station on land it owns between the Connecticut River and Interstate 91.

The station — a 60-by-60-foot steel building — would be leased to Waterbury, Vt., company Grow Compost when construction wraps up in October.

“The transfer station is a really important piece of moving organic recycling in the state of Vermont and New England forward,” said Lisa Ransom, co-founder of Grow Compost, which already leases and operates a 3.3-acre compost facility on GUVSWMD land.

Like that site, the transfer station is expected to receive food scraps from school districts, ski resorts, grocery stores and area transfer stations, Ransom said.

It likely will be needed as the state gets ready to fully implement Act 148, which forbids Vermonters from sending organic material, such as food scraps, to landfills beginning in 2020.

The grant is part of a $975,000 program intended to help towns and cities prepare for the coming organics ban, said Alyssa Eiklor, who works on Act 148 implementation at the state’s Solid Waste Management Program.

GUVSWMD was one of four entities chosen so far to receive money to either create a new compost facility or expand an existing one, she said in a phone interview.

“We were excited to be able to fund these projects because it’s an important need in the state,” Eiklor said. “Right now, there are several compost facilities meeting the current need but, as the need increases, capacity will need to as well.”

“There’s just too much material. Thirty-five to 55 percent of our waste in Vermont is organic material,” Ransom added in phone interview. “It’s crazy. It’s a huge amount of material.”

After waste is collected at the station, tractor-trailers will pick it up and transport it to be processed throughout New England, according to Tom Kennedy, director of the GUVSWMD, which is made up of 10 Upper Valley towns in Windsor and Orange counties.

GUVSWMD owns 172 acres in North Hartland, about 40 of which are permitted to serve as a landfill site. However, a lack of interest in that plan has led the group to instead envision a “sustainability park” taking root at the property.

One potential end point is a facility in Maine, where an anaerobic digester would turn the waste into methane, which can be burned to make electricity. Some of the resulting “digestant” also can be used as fertilizer on nearby agricultural fields, Kennedy said.

Ransom said it’s important that the station partners with groups throughout the region to process the waste, including other compost sites and farms. That way, the transfer station won’t have to rely solely on a single processor.

“We are hoping that that infrastructure is being built all over New England,” she said.

Overall, Kennedy predicted the North Hartland operation will cost about $400,000 and will create three to four jobs when operational. A lease agreement is still in the works, Ransom said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.