Improvements at the Balls Ford Road Compost Facility are coming along, and work is scheduled to be completed in spring 2020. When the everything is done, the facility will be able to take vegetative foods, meats, dairy products and liquids, in addition to yard waste, and turn everything into high-grade compost. These items total almost 30 percent of the waste stream.
Bernie Osilka, an engineer with the Prince William County Solid Waste Division, said the new composting system at the facility will be able to process 80,000 to 100,000 tons of material in a year compared to the 50,000 tons the facility can process now.
In the current facility, yard waste has to be piled in long windrows, which need to be occasionally turned using heavy equipment like backhoes and front-end loaders. Turning the yard waste into compost this way takes nearly a year, Osilka said. The new system uses large concrete bunkers with biofilters and aeration systems to speed things up. "With this new process, consisting of concrete bunkers and biofilters the production of finished compost will accelerate to about 120 days."
According to Osilka, food waste makes up 14 percent of material that currently goes into the landfill. The new, anaerobic system at the facility will be able to process food waste and keep it out of the landfill. "We're going to be able to take tons and tons of food waste and make gas, a liquid digestate and compost material from the anaerobic digesters. It helps provide a product in-house. The big thing though is it's eliminating material going into the landfill."
The county has a contract with Freestate Farms, an integrated organic waste management company, which is developing the new system and will run things day-to-day. The county will oversee the operation to make sure environmental requirements are met, Osilka said. "We have a discharge permit issued from the Department of Environmental Quality, that we have to comply with. We have to test the water and any runoff that is going to go into our ponds that discharges into state waters. We have to make sure what happens here is compliant with our stormwater permit."
The company will sell the finished, chemical-free compost to the public. A full-size pickup truck will hold about $50 worth of compost. "Anybody can come in and buy it," Osilka said.
For a time, the new facility will take food waste largely from schools, grocery stores, restaurants and other institutions, and reroute it to the composting facility. Accepting food waste from the public will come later. "We want to ensure the citizens are properly educated on how, what and when concerning the disposal of their food waste," said Osilka. "Once we have our procedures set, we'll be able to accept material from the public."
For more information about trash and recycling in the county, visit pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling.