Compost station keeps up with yard waste; 'black gold' always in demand       

Warwick Beacon Online

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 







It’s “black gold.”



It’s black all right and it looks like anything could grow in it.



Throughout the week, piles of compost, or black gold, are carried off in pails, plastic bags and trucks and trailers. On Saturday, the pace quickens and as much as 15 to 20 cubic yards of compost will be carried off.



These days the compost station isn’t making news and that’s a good thing for David Picozzi, acting director of the Department of Public Works.



Last year, under the threat of loosing its permit from the Department of Environmental Management, Picozzi brought to and end the long time practice of allowing commercial landscapers to use the facility. Landscapers were charged a fee, but that didn’t offset the dilemma faced by the department.



The landscapers were upset. Closing the facility to them meant more time on the road, as they traveled to the state landfill, and higher prices to the customer.



“The problem was that the volume was so huge that we couldn’t keep up with it,” said Picozzi.



An over-burdened compost station was not pleasant, especially for homeowners nearby. The saccharine smell of rotting vegetation can be overpowering but there was more to it than the odor. There were occasional fires and runoff from the giant piles of decomposing leaves, grass and yard waste seeped into Buckeye Brook.



It’s not perfect now. The odor is still detectable on certain days, but not with the same intensity.



Compost piles are smaller and they are turned more frequently to speed up the decomposition process.



The department has also reduced operations off Draper Avenue, because that backs up to a neighborhood and was a source of frequent complaints.



Last month, the DEM renewed the compost station permit. Picozzi also reports that, since stopping contractor use of the facility, the city hasn’t been cited by the DEM.



The compost station is more than black gold.



It is also the place where residents can get rid of brush and other yard waste, although the city will pick that up weekly at no charge.



A recent Tuesday morning found 62-year Warwick resident Bill Sears at the station with a trailer full of bushes. He paused from pulling the leafy branches off to talk about the facility he uses several times a year.



“This is super,” he said, “it’s special and unique. As a homeowner you’ve got no space [to dispose of yard waste] and this is nice and convenient.”



Jon Sears, who works at the station, and is no relation to Bill, says people need to understand the facility isn’t just a dump.



“We try to educate people,” he says.



Nonetheless, there is the occasional homeowner who turns up with a truck full of building debris or junk, hoping to dispose of it. The station will take boards and wood stripped of nails that, like branches, can be put through the chipper and turned into mulch. Bigger sections of trees cleared by the city or left at the station are free for the taking.



“There is a demand for the compost and mulch although there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the market,” says Picozzi.



“It’s on and its off,” said Picozzi.



There will be times when the city can sell the processed compost for $12 a cubic yard. And, every so often, Picozzi said, he’ll strike a deal for 1,000 yards or more of semi-processed material. Then there will be months where he can barely give it away.



The demand from residents, however, never abates.



Sears says one of the station’s regulars drives a motorcycle, taking away hardly enough of the rich earth to fill a couple of flowerpots.



“He lives in an apartment,” Sears explains.



As he spoke, Leona Borday pulled up to the compost pile and pulled an assortment of buckets and a shovel from her trunk.



Sears gave her a hand separating the buckets.



Borday said she comes to Warwick from Brooklyn (New York) and has no intention of either growing a garden or spreading the compost on her lawn.



“I’m too old for that,” she said.



But she’s not too old to pick up some black gold for a neighbor.