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Chemung County Soil Water Conservation District

In 2009, the Chemung County Soil Water Conservation District, a non-profit organization in the southern tier of New York, requested an intern to evaluate municipal infrastructure for the management of yard waste within the county. Following a ban on disposal of yard waste at the landfill, improper disposal of yard waste by homeowners was beginning to impact small streams in the county. Intern Sarita Upadhyay, a junior at Cornell University, majoring in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems, and a Master Composter, evaluated existing lawn, leaf, and brush pickup and disposal programs offered by all the municipalities in Chemung County. Ms. Upadhyay surveyed and interviewed municipal staff regarding services offered, aspects of the programs that worked well or needed improvement, and what training or improvements could enhance their programs. Special emphasis was placed on municipal composting programs. This big picture review and evaluation of the county's current practices led to several recommendations which the SWCD will be reviewing and implementing. In December 2009, for example, the SWCD hosted a mortality composting workshop, which would utilize wood chips to compost road killed deer and possibly euthanized animals from the animal shelters, which would otherwise be disposed in the landfill. Mortality composting is usually limited by availability of wood chips. Somewhat surprisingly, several municipalities are not picking up Christmas trees. Combining mortality composting with a wood chipping operation from down tree limbs and Christmas trees, would be a logical and mutually supportive community service. Implementing mortality composting will reduce the number of trips to the landfill, save staff time, reduce fuel and truck usage, conserve landfill space, and generate compost for the municipality. In addition, Ms. Upadhyay prepared outreach materials and conducted educational composting demonstrations to the public with an informational booth at the county fair, and workshops to different groups, including the boy scouts.

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