DEC Announces New Strategy to Address Environmental Impacts of Composting and Mulching Operations at Waste Management Facilities - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, August 1, 2018

DEC Announces New Strategy to Address Environmental Impacts of Composting and Mulching Operations at Waste Management Facilities

New Study and DEC Assessment of 80 Facilities Drive Updated Regulations to Protect Environment

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today a new comprehensive strategy to address the potential environmental impacts of mulching and composting operations at waste management facilities on Long Island. The strategy is designed to address potential impacts including fires, dust, odor, and groundwater impacts. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed DEC to revise the State's solid waste regulations governing mulching and composting operations at waste management facilities to incorporate additional restrictions and ensure facility operations are protective of public health and the environment in 2017.

Commissioner Seggos said, "Compost and mulch produced by New York's waste management facilities can be environmentally beneficial for erosion control, plant growth, and weed suppression, but producers must control potential impacts at their sites. Directed by Governor Cuomo, DEC has developed a comprehensive strategy to address these potential impacts from mulching and composting operations in order to protect Long Island's water and communities."

To develop the comprehensive new strategy, DEC assessed 80 sites on Long Island to evaluate operations and environmental conditions at each site. Many of these sites were exempt from DEC regulation prior to November 2017, and were not subject to DEC oversight. This assessment will be used to determine necessary site-specific controls.

In addition, DEC is implementing recently adopted regulations governing composting and mulching operations on Long Island. These are the first comprehensive regulations governing mulching operations in New York, and include pile size restrictions, temperature monitoring, buffer zones to neighbors, water bodies, etc., and the requirement for groundwater protection plans.

In June 2018, DEC met with private and municipal mulch producers and engineering consultants to discuss the criteria required by the State's new regulations. DEC also completed a $400,000, two-year field study of the potential groundwater impacts from various mulch pile configurations to help develop revisions to regulations. A copy of the final research report (PDF, 7.3 MB) can be found on DEC's website.

In light of the information found through DEC's research and evaluation of mulch and compost sites in 2018, and requirements of new legislation adopted in 2017, Governor Cuomo directed DEC to revise the State's Part 361 regulations in 2019 to strengthen the groundwater protection requirements for waste management sites. Strengthened requirements include groundwater monitoring requirements, methods to minimize liquid that has come into contact with the organic material such as pads on the site or pile covers, and prohibitions on operations in mines.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "Composting and mulching on Long Island, when done at large scale facilities, needs to be carefully managed to protect drinking water. Site assessments have shown that very specific strategies are needed in order to prevent any negative environmental impacts to local communities. I look forward to working with the Department to ensure that these comprehensive strategies take into account the full picture of any potential impacts and that the law that I sponsored last year is implemented to the fullest extent."

For additional information, contact Sally Rowland, Ph.D., P.E., sally.rowland@dec.ny.gov, 518-402-8706.

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