Ag Choice Organics Recycling composts food waste to reduce landfill and the need for toxic fertilizers
Anne-Marie Caruso, NorthJersey
WEST MILFORD — Fears over dump trucks hauling malodorous food waste to stew in a former quarry just north of the Monksville Reservoir brought hundreds of area residents to West Milford High School on Thursday night.
The school’s auditorium served as an alternate venue for the town’s zoning board and a long-awaited hearing on a proposal to expand an existing mulch and composting operation off Greenwood Lake Turnpike by nearly 500 percent. Almost immediately, Robert Landel, the attorney for applicant Green Meadow Organics LLC, sought to quell a key concern.
“There will be no food waste recycling,” he said, adding the applicant is willing to make that caveat a condition of approval.
West Milford residents gather in the town’s high school auditorium on Sept. 19, 2019 to hear a controversial proposal to expand an organic recycling center near the Monksville Reservoir. (Photo: David M. Zimmer/NorthJersey.com)
Green Meadow Organics is seeking to compost, convert trees to mulch and break down chunks of concrete into reusable aggregate twice per year, its experts testified. The application initially proposed the integration of compressed food waste cakes to supplement the composting process but has been amended, Landel said.
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Board members did not issue a decision on the application at the end of the four-hour session Thursday. Further testimony is expected in late October or November, said Stephen Glatt, the board attorney.
Though food recycling has been pulled from the proposal, Troy Osborne, who runs a business near the site’s Burnt Meadow Road entrance, said he still has concerns about noise and water pollution from an expanded center. The Hewitt Brook runs through the property and drains into the Monksville Reservoir.
“This is the wrong area to do this. We have problems around here with our water,” Osborne said, referencing an ongoing algal bloom in nearby Greenwood Lake.
A map submitted for the Green Meadow Organics application to the West Milford Zoning Board of Adjustment shows the current organic recycling operation in a peach color and the proposed expansion in the brownish areas. (Photo: David M. Zimmer/NorthJersey.com)
For more than a year, residents have awaited the hearing on Green Meadow Organics’ request for variances to store material closer to a property line and a nearby home.
The application was set for review by the volunteer-run, zoning board in August 2018. The hearing was first delayed to permit a venue change after interested residents packed town hall’s main meeting room, back halls and front entryway.
Another delay came when the applicant’s representatives requested more time to complete a subsequently mandated environmental impact statement for the proposed expansion and addition of food waste and concrete recycling. The statement reviewed Thursday still contained mentions of food waste, drawing criticism from residents and board members.
“This application was withdrawn for months and then resubmitted for the purposes of doing an [environmental impact statement] and you say it’s flawed,” said Daniel Jurkovic, board member and former town councilman. “I find that extraordinarily troubling.”
The site in the town’s northeast is a rock quarry decommissioned in 1999. The excavated grounds currently harbor RVH Mulch Supply. The Wyckoff-based company can presently accept compostable leaves, brush and grass clippings separated from non-compostable material and solid waste at the site, state records show.
Kevin Boswell, the applicant’s engineer, said RVH’s operation will be taken over by Green Meadow Organics. Some of the more intensive property uses will be relocated to avoid disturbing an adjacent home during the transition, he added.
“As proposed, the composting operation will be over 1,000 feet from the nearest residence,” Boswell said.
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The concrete recycling operation is due to be setup near the site’s frontage adjacent to homes and businesses on Burnt Meadow Road, however, records show.
Currently spreading across six acres, the organic recycling center could expand to 29 acres across two properties totaling roughly 80 acres, according to Green Meadow Organics’ representatives. In 2017, town officials amended the area’s zoning to permit mulch processing, composting and scrap tire recycling on sites of at least six acres.
An organic recycling operation near the Monksville Reservoir in West Milford could be expanded to more than four times its size if approvals are granted. (Photo: Courtesy of Jill Van Nostrand)
Frank Rossi, a licensed site remediation professional with Boswell’s firm Boswell Engineering, said state, county and municipal regulators should protect residents from an ill-run center. Concerns over putrid odors and other air quality issues fall under the regulations of the Air Pollution Control Act, which allows Department of Environmental Protection officials to seek fines of $10,000 to $50,000 for each violation.
Rossi said the site would generate additional truck traffic, going from a maximum of 30 to 40 trucks per day. Still, there will be less overall traffic than there was when the site operated as a quarry, he said.
Kathryn Olinger of Burnt Meadow Road said she is not looking forward to more truck traffic near her home or a concrete crusher.
“This is the worst idea ever,” she said.
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