BURLINGTON - "You know, I don't think anyone's heard more about compost in Vermont than in the last nine months," says Kit Perkins, executive director of Burlington's Intervale Center.
That's putting it mildly. This spring and summer, the Agency of Natural Resources socked Intervale Compost Products (ICP) with multiple permit violations - including dumping contaminated wastewater - and threatened to shut the facility down by summer 2008. Concurrently, ICP was publicly lambasted by Judy Dow, an Abenaki who contends the composting operation - which sits atop an Abenaki burial ground - is "abusing" a sacred site.
Things have changed since October 3, when Seven Days first covered the Intervale brouhaha. Days later, an Intervale employee reported that ICP General Manager Holly Rae Taylor had been "fired" - a matter Kit Perkins won't discuss. ICP, which recycles 22,000 tons of organic matter per year, is now taking steps to comply with state mandates. Among other measures, wastewater is now carted away "at great expense," rather than dumped on-site. The compost facility will submit a revised "leachate management" plan to ANR in January.
ICP "wants to be in 100 percent compliance," insists Perkins. "We wouldn't be [composting] for this long" - over a decade - "if we thought that we were having an adverse impact."
As for the Abenaki question? On December 4, Perkins announced the appointment of Abenaki archeologist David Skinas to the Intervale's board of directors. "We were already thinking about doing that [before the violations]," asserts Perkins. "But obviously," she admits, "we were not as educated as we should have been about some of the archeological resources, and this was a way to demonstrate how much we care."
Perkins expects ICP to remain open "until we hear otherwise" from ANR.
ANR Secretary George Crombie appears to have a different plan. "I believe it has to move," he said of the facility in late November.
Perkins is diplomatic when responding to Crombie's comments, but Intervale farmer and Vermont House Rep. Dave Zuckerman (P-Burlington) calls them needlessly "antagonistic." The ponytailed legislator, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is currently talking with Taylor - who now calls herself a "freelance compost maven" - and the nonprofit Composting Association of Vermont; they want to make Vermont's composting regulations more "clear."
"I would hope," Zuckerman notes, "that the [ANR] secretary would work in a more cooperative manner with respect to all businesses in the state, particularly ones that are environmental stewards."