IV. FACILITY SITING AND INITIAL PREPARATION
Site selection is an extremely important decision that should be made only after careful consideration, as each situation is unique. The deliberation over site selection should take into account proximity to residences and streams, prevailing winds, traffic patterns, travel distance and its effect on equipment and labor costs, and other factors, such as local zoning requirements. Many of these are discussed below, yet familiarity with local circumstances is essential and cannot be reduced to written instruction. It is suggested that the County Extension Office be involved in the early stages of planning. The siting of the facility must be approved by the host county and included in the county's Solid Waste Management Plan before the application can be submitted to the NJDEPE/DSWM. Some counties have blanket plan inclusion policies to facilitate this requirement (contact your county's Solid Waste Management Office).
A. Public Participation
When selecting a site, the importance of public participation must be stressed. Concerns raised may include odor, traffic, noise, litter, water pollution, and health issues, such as the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. Surrounding property owners and the general public should be educated as to the benefits of composting, and assured that their concerns will be addressed. They also need to be informed about the proposed facility, including site capacity, type of material which will be accepted, and the level of technology, including what type of equipment will be utilized.
It is very important to have support within the community; an informed public is less likely to oppose the siting and operation of a facility. It also may be necessary to deal with the emotional reaction of some community members. An open dialogue should be maintained throughout the planning and operational phases of the project. This can be accomplished by providing educational and informal discussion sessions during hours convenient to the public. The county Cooperative Extension office may be very helpful with special programs and expertise. Many sites offer the finished compost free of charge to residents, further increasing knowledge and support within the community.
In New Jersey a state permit or letter of approval is required for all solid waste facilities, including vegetative and leaf composting facilities. The type of permit or approval required depends on the amounts and types of materials accepted. In October, 1988, the State adopted an emergency rule which enabled the NJDEPE to expeditiously authorize the operation of leaf and vegetative waste composting facilities. One subsection, N.J.A.C. 7:26-1.11, applies to facilities with a capacity not in excess of 20,000 cubic yards annually which compost leaves only.
NJDEPE allows the development of leaf composting demonstration projects for educational purposes on lands owned or operated by recognized academic institutions. Such facilities may accept up to 500 cubic yards of leaves, only. The Soil Conservation District (SCD - see Appendix D) may assist in developing and submitting the site plan.
SCDs may help develop site plans for the construction, operation, and maintenance of leaf composting facilities (leaves only) located on agricultural or horticultural land, or on lands owned or operated by a recognized academic institution. The SCD must then conduct annual inspections of these facilities to ensure compliance with NJDEPE regulations.
For further information on obtaining a permit or approval for composting facilities, please contact the NJDEPE/DSWM, Bureau of Resource Recovery Engineering. A pre-application meeting is strongly recommended. Composting facilities also must be incorporated into the district solid waste management plan. Please contact your county Solid Waste Management Office (Appendix D) for further information on including your composting facility in your district's plan.
Backyard composting activities do not require a permit or approval from the NJDEPE provided that they are limited to the composting of family waste on the premises of one or two family dwellings.
C. Area Requirement
A minimum of an acre per 3000-3500 cubic yards of leaves collected is required for the actual composting operation. This assumes the use of the low or intermediate level technology described later, and is in addition to the requirement for a buffer zone (see Table 1). Calculation of site capacity is shown in Appendix A.
Use of the intermediate level of technology may require additional space, since smaller windrows are needed to accommodate many turning machines. However, this must be determined individually for the type of equipment chosen. Windrows often can be assumed to have the approximate cross-sectional shape of a semi-circle. Necessary aisle space depends again on the type of equipment used.
D. Buffer Zone
A buffer zone is required between the site activities and neighboring land use to minimize possible odor, noise, dust and visual impacts. Other than "the larger the better", it is difficult to generalize exact buffer zone requirements for composting. It would seem prudent to provide at least 50 feet between the composting operation and the property line. At least 150 feet must be allowed between composting activities and any sensitive neighboring land uses, such as residential property lines. Additionally, at least a 250 foot buffer is needed between composting activities and a place of human occupancy (house, school, etc.). If grass clippings will be brought to the site, at least 1000 foot buffer zones from the staging and grass clipping handling areas are probably necessary (see Section VI). Calculations of area requirements for buffer zones are shown in Appendix A.
The buffer zone may include a berm (often of finished compost) to serve as a visual barrier, help control vehicular access, and reduce noise levels off-site. A landscaping plan, including plantings, is strongly recommended to enhance the appearance of the facility.
A centrally located facility is preferable to reduce transportation time and costs, although such sites are not often available or otherwise practical. Access is preferably over non-crowded, non-residential, hard surface roads.
While siting on Green Acres land is not strictly prohibited, it only will be considered as a last resort. Contact the Green Acres Program Office (see Appendix D) for more information.
F. Stream Encroachment and Water Pollution
Siting of a leaf composting facility in a flood plain normally is not allowed by state regulations. During times of high water the windrows might impede water flow, and/or leaves and leachate might wash into the stream. Flooding of the site could pose serious operational difficulties, including problems with equipment access and operation. Flooding of the windrows also may lead to extensive anaerobic conditions and attendant problems of odor and lower decomposition rate. Flood plain maps are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the NJDEPE, Land Use Regulation Program (see Appendix D).
Runoff into nearby streams or other surface waters is another concern because of the water pollution potential of leachate (see Section VII.B). If grass clippings are composted, nitrogen contamination of groundwater also must be considered (Sections VI.A and VII.B).
G. Slope and Grading
Steep slopes are unsatisfactory because of problems with erosion, vehicular access, and equipment operation. A gentle slope, however, is desirable to prevent ponding of runoff and leachate. The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) allows a minimum slope of 0.5%, and a maximum of 10%, although 2-3% is usually desirable. Initial site preparation usually requires grading, and yearly maintenance should include regrading where necessary. Windrows should run up and down rather than across slopes to allow leachate and runoff to move between piles, rather than through them.
Drainage characteristics of a site can be determined from U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps and a plot plan survey. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture's "Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control" (N.J.A.C. 2:90) provides information on grading to promote drainage and prevent erosion and sedimentation. The local Soil Conservation District (see Appendix D) should be contacted for information on permits or approvals that may be required for any soil disturbance in excess of 5000 square feet.
High soil percolation rates are desirable so that excessive rainwater and leachate will not run off the site. Where percolation is poor, soil modification techniques may be used to improve drainage. With poor percolation, or where an impervious surface is used, particular care must be taken to prevent ponding. While an impervious surface such as pavement may offer advantages in terms of vehicle access and equipment operation, these may be outweighed by the greater difficulties in leachate management. The Soil Conservation District (see Appendix D) may be consulted to determine soil characteristics of sites under consideration.
I. Water Table
A high water table is undesirable because it may lead to flooding of the site. Flooding will make operation more difficult and can lead to extensive anaerobic conditions. A high water table also reduces the distance for percolation of leachate. Wetlands and wetland buffer areas especially should be avoided. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Division of Soil Conservation (see Appendix D) publishes a local soil conservation district "Soil Survey" booklet for each county containing information on depth to ground water. This information is general, however, and a more site specific determination may be necessary. The SCS requires the seasonal high water table to be at least 2 feet below the surface.
J. Water Supply
The ability to supply water is critical since it usually is necessary to add water to the incoming leaves during much of the collection season. Water can best be supplied by using a hose from a fire hydrant or by pumping from a nearby lake, stream, or well. Use of a water truck usually is not practical because too much water is needed. Approximate average water requirements are 20 gallons per cubic yard of leaves (see Appendix A2).
Vehicular access to the site must be controlled to prevent illegal dumping. A gate across the entrance road is a minimum precaution. In some cases the entire site may have to be fenced, but usually preexisting features such as streams, trees, and embankments will provide partial security. A berm consisting of earth and finished compost often can serve in place of a fence at other points. Vandalism may be of concern, especially if equipment is to be left on site.
L. On-Site Roads
Because of the heavy truck traffic during the collection period, a limited road network (possibly paved) within the site may be desirable to improve all-weather access. A circular traffic flow pattern may be advantageous at heavily used sites. The purpose of the on-site roads is to help prevent trucks from getting stuck during muddy conditions. An extensive on-site road network is not required.
M. Fire Safety
Normally, windrowed leaves burn poorly, since the interior of the pile is wet. While vandals may be able to ignite the dry surface leaves, a major fire is unlikely. Fire safety is further accommodated by having a ready water supply and delivery capacity, initial wetting of the leaves, and providing aisles between windrows as a fire break and for access.
N. Other Safety Considerations
Safety precautions usual to any operation involving heavy machinery should
be exercised. Road layout should be designed with safety in mind. Public
access should be restricted.
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