Mattapoisett Board of Health Chairman Carmelo Nicolosi was admittedly hesitant to accept Andrew Brousseau’s pitch on behalf of Gloucester-based Black Earth Composting on June 29.
The board, including members Michelle Bernier and Russell Bailey, met with Brousseau and Mattapoisett Health Agent Gail Joseph at the Mattapoisett Transfer Station to discuss Brousseau’s proposal for a customized, regional composting facility at the Tinkham Hill Road site.
“I’m not ready to give it a vote of confidence,” said Nicolosi, qualifying his remarks to clarify that the Select Board is the town’s ultimate vetting board and the Board of Health would bring a recommendation.
Nicolosi made it clear he finds the concept attractive but only providing he can protect the interests of Mattapoisett homeowners.
Brousseau is an earth scientist helping run an emerging business designed to achieve long-range solutions for municipalities running out of space and safe means to dispose of their trash, food waste and land waste. He believes Black Earth can save towns a lot of money over a long period of time, especially as towns anticipate a state mandate that they cut in half their food-waste disposal by 2030.
What Black Earth does is finance and build a facility on a host town’s property and seek via survey of interest and geography member towns to participate in a regional arrangement. The facility processes food waste into a dry compost that can be used to fertilize yards.
According to Brousseau, the package is designed to save the town on annual recurring costs that would include paying to incinerate food scraps at the SEMASS plant, paying to grind trees and stumps and paying to dispose of yard waste.
On the list of services that Brousseau says Black Earth would offer for charge or free depending on how a contract is shaped: residential curbside, commercial and/or school pickup of food scraps; pickup of electronics, yard waste/Christmas trees and textiles and the conversion of the town’s organic waste into high-quality, organic compost.
Brousseau explained that the pandemic’s drag on the supply chain has created a marketplace for the local manufacturing of compost. “Our fertilizer comes from all over the world, we need local sources,” he said.
In listening to Brousseau explain the program, Nicolosi’s primary concern was the balance of facility usage by locals as opposed to the participating communities. Nicolosi repeatedly looked for an alternative structure that would put Mattapoisett residents first.
Black Earth typically seeks a 10-year agreement, but Brousseau told Mattapoisett representatives that the company would consider a five-year deal. He said it takes time for the model to grow.
The business model he proposed mirrors existing Black Earth facilities hosted by three other towns in Massachusetts. The site plan, however, would be tailored to the individual needs and land capacity of the host town.
The proposed composting facility would need a footprint measuring between 2.5 and 4 acres of land, and the area suggested encroaches slightly on an area already approved for a solar array at the base of the hill at the site.
Nicolosi encouraged Brousseau to propose a different footprint as to avoid creating a nonstarter response from the Select Board. After the meeting, Brousseau, Bernier and Joseph walked the proposed site.
Speeding among trucks was a concern, and Brousseau said GPS control of the Groton facility brought down Black Earth’s trucks to 25 mph; he said the only trucks speeding now are the town’s DPW.
Brousseau estimates that 177 trucks will go in and out of the facility in a 222-day period. The Groton facility has averaged a truck per day.
Should Mattapoisett host a Black Earth composting facility, it is presumed that New Bedford would be among the surrounding municipalities using the facility. Black Earth’s Groton facility hosts Lowell, among smaller communities.
In 1 1/2 years, the Groton facility has built to 300 users, while the facility hosted by Manchester-By-The-Sea has 800 users, approximately 35 percent of the town’s population.
Participation in the survey is noncommittal, stressed Brousseau, its purpose solely to establish an indicator of measurable interest among any particular town’s residents.
To reregister for participation in a Black Earth composting facility, visit blackearthcompost.com.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Health was not scheduled upon adjournment.
Mattapoisett Board of Health
By Mick Colageo
Hello! This article mentions a survey? What survey? How can residents participate?