Animal composting facility could cost $600,000


A proposed Carroll County animal composting site could require up to 2 acres of space and cost between $300,000 and $600,000 to build, according to recent information from the University of Maryland's agricultural engineering department.

Members of the Carroll County Agricultural Commission said last week they expect construction costs for the site to be borne by a federal grant.

William Powel, coordinator of the county's Agricultural Land Preservation program, said it will be unnecessary for Carroll to seek a preliminary grant for a feasibility study because the county will use research and plans developed by the University of Maryland.

"We'll be able to skip the first step and get a grant for a sum of money to construct and operate the facility," he said.

Facility plans would be devised by agricultural engineer Lewis E. Carr and Herbert L. Brodie, a specialist in water and waste systems, said David Greene, director of the Carroll County Extension Agency. Mr. Carr and Mr. Brodie are University of Maryland professors.

"These are people who teach composting," Mr. Greene said. "I have every confidence that they are capable of doing the job."

Dead birds already are composted by most chicken farms, such as County Fair Farms in Silver Run and those on the Eastern Shore. University of Maryland researchers have used that technology to begin developing compost systems for larger animals, Mr. Greene said.

The Carroll County Agricultural Commission has proposed a county facility for a remote section of the Northern Landfill in Reese as a place to dispose of dead farm animals.

Currently, rendering companies that find uses for various parts of dead animals pick up the bodies of most livestock in the county. The remainder are buried on farm property.

However, renderers often charge up to $150 to pick up small animals and horses, and reject animals that have been dead for more than 24 hours. The companies also will not pick up dead sheep.

Farmers believe that burying the animals is environmentally unsound and may contaminate the county's ground water supply, Mr. Greene said.

"People have a lot of concerns about water quality and so forth," he said. "I don't think burying is an alternative. This is a better alternative."

County officials have been studying options for dead animal disposal for about six years.

"I feel the county has as much a responsibility to dispose of dead animals as . . . to collect garbage," Mr. Greene said. "There is a certain amount of animals that is not being taken care of. Our goal is to compost only those that the renderers are unwilling to take."

Initial projections from the University of Maryland call for a facility that can handle 600,000 pounds of dead animals per year and produce 750 cubic yards of compost per year.

"I think that's way high," Mr. Greene said of the estimated mortality rate. "However, we have to plan for a worst-case scenario."

The Carroll facility would be divided into seven sections. It would include sanitary containers to receive animals, an machine to turn the compost mixture while forcing air through it, biological filters and areas for the material to cure and be stored.

The entire decomposition process is estimated to take seven to ZTC eight months. A landfill employee could be expected to spend fewer than four hours a day at the site during peak periods, the projections said.

"There are many configurations for a compost facility, from the very cheap but labor-intensive to the very expensive and highly automated," Mr. Brodie said in his letter to the agricultural commission. "In the circumstance of composting dead animals, we believe that the cheapest facility will not be environmentally nor aesthetically desirable.

"We are suggesting a system that provides for the treatment of the waste, but also can meet the necessary sanitary and other concerns."

Michille Hyde, a county grants analyst, said she will probably seek construction grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

"This looks like the type of project they will fund," she said. "It falls within their priorities. From what I have seen, this type of facility is kind of innovative."

Ms. Hyde said she is awaiting information from the agricultural commission and does not have a timetable for submitting the grant applications.

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