Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oct 22- Natural Resource Recovery

One of the more interesting issues that came up was a local homeowner stating that he had been fighting for over two years to deal with an odor issue at his home, which is located near Natural Resources Recovery in Solway (where 62 meets 162).

For two years, he has been plagued by sewage-like odors, but on-site inspections seemed to turn up nothing. The resident begged for action to be taken, but it was unclear how Commission would proceed without the backing of the Air Quality board or a corroborating inspection by someone with the County (even a Commissioner).

Working with air quality issues, I suspected a few things, did a little research today, and I have a likely cause and a proposed solution that would be a win-win for all parties. See the "Comments" section for details. Maybe we can solve this homeowner's problem quickly.


Steve said...

Emailed to Commissioners Mark Harmon and Greg Lambert:

Dear Greg/Mark:

I wasn't sure at the meeting, but I had suspected that the issue might be a heavier-than-air component that was causing
the resident odor problems, while being relatively undetectable during an on-site visit.

I drove to the site today and found that the facility lies towards the top of the hill, with most of the residents living below,
mostly in a valley where a heavier-than-air gaseous pollutant would be trapped and concentrated far above levels that
could be detected on-site. It's the same geographical issue that threatens Knox County itself with non-attainment for
ozone (lying in a valley), albeit in this case on a much smaller scale.

I found a resource with my contacts in the Maine Dept of Environmental Protection - a fellow named Bill Seekins. His
research confirms that:

(1) Organic acids, especially long chain organic acids (LOAs) are very odorous, and are found in great abundance
where kitchen/food waste is added to the compost. In the case of NRR, they mentioned they are handling a lot of
commercial food waste.

(2) Breakdown of organic acids can take two to six months (!!), with odor being produced with every turn of the pile. The
speed of breakdown depends on how well the composting process is managed.
It is suggested that NRR may want to review their process to ensure that biological activity is kept as high as possible. One
slowing factor is too little moisture, and the drought may have had an effect (I did see water hoses near some of the piles when
I went by, so they might be doing a good job of this already). How often does NRR check the pH of the pile, and do they
know how to properly sample it deep within the pile? Is there enough nitrogen/nutrients for a high rate of breakdown? Do
they have a good mix of coarse material to ensure oxygen in the pile. Too little oxygen can create lots of organic acids and
high amounts of the "low hanging" odor.

CH2MHill's experience with air might lead them to the same conclusion, but this is a pretty specialized pollutant problem. NRR
may wish to consult with (or be compelled to consult with) Mr. Seekins who is clearly an expert in this issue. He could be
asked to either audit the facility's operations and identify possible flaws in their process, or at the very least be contracted
remotely to develop a list of procedures and tests that NRR or another local consultant could follow.

A resolution could be placed before the Commission that NRR immediately seek the advice of an expert in composting and
air pollution issues related to composting, like Mr. Seekins, and that NRR work with the consultant to define a routine testing
procedure (pH, temperature, nitrogen levels) and operational procedures (airflow/mix management, as well as operational actions
to be made based on testing results) to be followed, with routine test results and a log of resultant actions to be available on-site for
public inspection. Simple operational improvements are the win-win scenario- in fact, the resultant mulch product would be improved
by these changes as well (an "immature" mulch product could actually damage plants they are used on).

NRR may also wish to consider earthen berms (rather than trees) as a physical barrier against low-lying gases to prevent them
from infiltrating the residential valley. With the heavy equipment on-site, creating these berms should be a minimal cost. However,
I would defer to CH2MHill, once they are made aware of this organic acids issue, to determine if they think berms would be
effective in diverting the LOA pollutants.

whatmeworry? said...

Instead of telling me the time,you're telling me how to construct a watch.Commissioners aren't a core of engineers-cut to the chase,already.You may be alienating your would -be colleagues by continuosly ridiculing and scoffing at their comments as you have on your site and on Knoxnews.com.Play nicer with people you may be in the sandbox with later.Mudslinging is a double-edged sword and the voters are tired of it as much as they are of the chaos surrounding commission.State a platform,tell us how you want to implement it,and be done with it.Sarcasm is not going to get you votes.Ease up on the "ain't I cute" routine and stick to issues concerning the citizens of your district.And,by the way,don't use your intellect to talk down to people.It's a turn-off and it will cost you some serious votes.

Steve said...

I'm sorry, I'm more than a little confused by your comments. I don't really understand where you think I have ridiculed anyone's comments.

As far as stating a platform, I think I have done this, more so than many others that talk in non-specifics about reform. Yes, I am trying to be as specific as possible.

I'm also a little confused about how you think I am "talking down" to people. Are you referring to this posting in particular, referring to my attempt to bring some expertise to bear on an issue? I would argue (a) that anybody's personal expertise (accounting, science, etc) would be an asset to the Commission and shouldn't be concealed or ignored and (b) that in no way does my post "talk down" to anyone.

If you could be more specific, I'd be happy to discuss!

Steve said...

(perhaps you could explain what you meant by the time/watch analogy as well? If you meant that I had described the problem and not offered a solution, please recheck the last two paragraphs)

whatmeworry? said...

You alluded to sarcasm about Lambert and the fourth district.Most people couldn't tell what the 14th amendment is if their life depended on it.You need to realize that Joe Q. Public is a lay person.For that matter,so is most of Commission.While I'm sure you are well qualified in your given field,speaking to the masses in tech-speak will bewilder some.

The analogy repeats the above.You give a page long diatribe showing your competence as an engineer but people don't care how a problem is solved,but how soon it can be done.

Use the K.I.S.S. method whenever possible.

Don't point fingers at members of Commission and roll your eyes at other's "opines"(Mr.Hammond's per se).You're fighting an uphill battle in the first place.One,no one's heard of you.Two,you're a Democrat in a Republican town(me,too). and third,you're a neophyte in this game.

Good Luck with your campaign.These are just ideas to bat around.If I see something else I feel compelled to gig you on,you'll be the first to know.Good day!

Steve said...

Well, in the case about representation, yes, there was some mild sarcasm involved. As a currently unrepresentative citizen of the Fourth District, it's an issue near and dear to my heart and that of my neighbors, and we absolutely want the Commission to take the issue seriously and fully understand the concept of one person-one vote when resolving it. The comment hardly reaches a level of "ridicule," though. But yes, your advice to not cross the line of 'snarkiness' is well-taken.

I certainly didn't mean to 'roll my eyes' at Mr. Hammond's comments- quite the contrary, my "[that's] Excellent" comment is applause. Mike's a stand-up guy in my book.

I would disagree that most people don't understand the 14th Amendment and the issue of representation. I know a lot of "John Q. Publics" from all walks of life, and their understanding of what's going on is very detailed. I suppose to some extent, I'm assuming that anyone who can find the blog can Google the 14th Amendment if they really needed to (wouldn't having to explain the 14th Amendment inline be "talking down" more?).

But you're right- K.I.S.S. in all writing is important, but there is a boundary where you bore/insult some of your other readers, and so far in the campaign, I haven't run into anyone who needs a lot of explanation which I think bodes well.

I think being a political newcomer is an asset, not a liability. What Commission needs is a good chunk of people that aren't politically connected and aren't coming to the table with an allegiance to any faction. If we can get that, we can get real ethics reform proposals, real budget scrutiny, and new thinking that can really move this County forward. Yes, it will be a very uphill battle, but the people I've met door-to-door so far are all very supportive of this "outside" candidacy so far.

Thanks again, and yes, feel free to gig me as necessary!

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