Status Report: Compost and Persistent Herbicides
Summary of Events to Date
In late June, 2012, Green Mountain Compost (GMC) received a series of calls from customers who reported symptoms indicative of persistent herbicide damage in gardens containing Green Mountain Compost products. Lab results confirmed the presence of trace amounts of persistent herbicides in some samples of compost and compost-based products produced at the GMC facility. We immediately stopped sales of all of GMC compost products, notified customers, and issued press releases. The Vermont Department of Health analyzed lab test results and determined that the trace amounts of persistent herbicides found in samples of GMC soils were far lower than levels that would increase risk of harm to human health, and that vegetables produced in gardens suspected of containing trace amounts of persistent herbicides are safe to eat.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), which owns and operates Green Mountain Compost, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture have worked hard to determine how these herbicides, which are regulated by the state, were able to enter feedstocks coming to Green Mountain Compost in apparent violation of their label requirements. Though many questions have been answered, CSWD continues to work with state agencies, scientists, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pinpoint the sources and nature of these herbicides, and to make sure that they stay out of GMC compost going forward. For more detailed information on this issue and how it unfolded, please refer to our Compost & Persistent Herbicide Fact Sheet.
Sales Suspended for 2013
Due to the time needed for extensive quality assurance testing, and our commitment to sell only fully mature, proven compost that has undergone rigorous testing, we do not have enough product available to meet 2013 spring sales demands. We will have mature, fully tested soil products available in bulk starting March of 2014 and in bags for the 2015 season. We sincerely hope that our loyal customers will again welcome our better-than-ever products back into their gardens at that time.
We (and other composters) now face the task of making safe, quality compost, now knowing that persistent herbicides are in feedstocks across the continent. Green Mountain Compost (GMC) has always exceeded state and US Composting Council Association quality assurance testing requirements for all of our finished compost and products. A sample of every 1,000-yard batch of finished compost is sent for lab analysis to test for moisture content, organic matter content, pH soluble salts, CO2 evolution, maturity indicators, fecal coliform, salmonella, a suite of metals, plant nutrients, bulk density, and carbon: nitrogen ratio.
In addition to these standard analyses, GMC is leading the way on detection and analysis of persistent herbicides in compost. At present, there are insufficient testing options on a national level for detection of minute quantities of persistent herbicides in compost. GMC and CWSD have been working closely with the Vermont Department of Agriculture, the US EPA, the best private labs in the country, as well as with the herbicide manufacturers to demand and ensure that accurate, reliable, and affordable testing is in place to identify these compounds in compost. As new and improved detection abilities emerge, GMC will carry out regular chemical analyses on all compost produced to ensure that any material sold does not contain persistent herbicides.
We recently completed construction of a new greenhouse at Green Mountain Compost, and we will soon have growth trials underway for every batch of compost we make. In addition, Green Mountain Compost and CSWD are bringing this issue to the forefront of national discussion and action.
We made the right choice early on to be as transparent as possible about the herbicide issue, and customers near and far have expressed their appreciation and loyalty to our products thanks to this policy. We’re confident that consumers will come back to us not only because we have a strong record of quality and integrity, but because we may be unique in the degree to which we will be taking measures to ensure that our products contain only ingredients that will help gardens thrive. Green Mountain Compost serves an important purpose in our community, diverting organic waste away from landfills and into quality soil amendments and we intend to continue providing that service far into the future as demand increases.