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‘Living next to composting not pleasant’

I am writing in response to The Valley Reporter In My View by Gaelan Brown dated September 12, 2013.

The first thing I will admit is that I am not a politician. I do not know nor do I care about the tax issues of Vermont's composting facilities.

I am, however, a neighbor of a compost facility. I dare say, I may very likely be the closest neighbor to any composting facility in the state of Vermont. My home is about 100 yards away from the center of the neighboring compost facility. I live closer to this operation than the people who are running it do. Therefore, when it comes to the topic of compost "issues," I will dub myself an "expert."

I don't dispute the fact that composting is a good thing for our state, for all of the obvious reasons. I do, however, believe that like any business a composting facility must be held accountable for their actions.

I have lived in my home since 1991. In 2006, I was approached by the owners of the neighboring compost facility, letting me know of their impending plans to apply for and eventually create this facility. I was even told how one day they could even see themselves wanting to purchase my property as a "store front" for their business.

I asked the obvious questions: Will it smell? Will it attract rodents? Will it be noisy? Etc. I was told that the gases in composting were ammonia based and thus lighter than air, so they rise rapidly. Basically, all my burning questions were answered and I accepted those answers at face value. When the regulatory process began, I saw no reason to interfere. This was clearly a huge mistake on my part!

Being a "good" neighbor, I even overlooked many issues with this budding business. There was a load of apples in their first few months of operation that turned the air around my home into what could be described as invisible vomit! Issues similar to this occurred again and again. The owners of the facility, to their credit, did keep in touch often and apologized for the frequent odor issues. As a "good" neighbor, I told them, "It's okay; I understand that you need some time to work out the recipe." I said this repeatedly.

The compost facility next to me has been in operation about six years now and they still have odor issues, daily! These odors are not the attractive Vermont farm odors, they are rotting food odors!

I understand that topography, geography and other weather-related issues have a great effect on my situation. The fact still remains that the composting facility produces noxious odors daily and I smell them morning, noon and night, 24/7.

Some of the other things that I have had to endure from my neighboring compost facility are birds ... crows, by the boat load. Dump vultures, as I call them – very large birds – soar just over my home and property all the time. I can see from my back deck where they "roost" in some tall trees. Neither of these types of birds would likely be here in the quantity that they are, if it were not for the "food" source that they enjoy. With birds come ... bird "doo"! Lots of it! The birds also have a nasty habit of dropping bones and clam shells in my backyard. My dog would often get sick after finding some of these unexpected treats on her lawn. We have had summers when the number of flies was abnormally high.

So after six years of putting up with this, yes, I have called ANR numerous times to report odor issues. It seems to be my only avenue of recourse. Contrary to Mr. Brown's comment, ANR regulators do not come riding in within the hour! Fortunately, when they did come for an inspection, they did find odor issues and have tasked the facility with corrective actions. This is fine on the surface, but the odor issues still come knocking ... every day.

I have never sought to put any emotional stress on the neighboring facility, but I do not believe that my actions have them "lawyering up," as Mr. Brown mentions in his article. The neighboring compost facility has had some pricey lawyers for quite some time now ... for other reasons.

To recap from the top, I do believe that composting is good for our state. However, make no mistake; living next to a composting facility is not a pleasant experience. If there are guidelines that a composting facility must follow in regard to odors, then ANR is the police that you must call when you feel the "law" has been broken.

I wonder if someone wanted to put a composting facility next door to Mr. Brown's home, would he be willing to accept it with open arms?

Sandretto lives in Moretown.

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