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Letters to the editor

Composting something to be proud of


The Whistler Composting Facility is something the community should be very proud of. Composting Whistler's biosolids is a significant step toward sustainability the community has made. A community that does not take ownership and responsibility for its most basic waste stream can't call itself sustainable.

Biosolids are nothing to be scared of; they are just a part of all of us. What is in Whistler's biosolids was at one time in all of us.

Whistler's sewage collection system doesn't have any sources of industrial contaminants, so metal concentrations in Whistler biosolids are a fraction of the allowable amounts.

Most of the metals in the biosolids are essential plant nutrients and are not accumulated in the soil.

Biosolids are the product of an extensive wastewater treatment process. There are many steps between raw sewage and biosolids.

Whistler's tertiary wastewater treatment is not simply the removal of water from the wastewater, it is a complex series of biological processes that break down organic matter and remove nutrients from the wastewater. The end product of this process is biosolids.

We are not adding biosolids to our compost; we are composting biosolids. Composting is simply a controlled process for breaking down organic matter.

Compost needs carbon from wood waste, nitrogen from biosolids and food waste, water, and oxygen. Biosolids are just a nutrient source for the composting process. When these ingredients are mixed together in the appropriate ratios, beneficial microbes in the material begin to multiply and break down the biosolids and food waste. As they multiply they generate huge amounts of heat. Whistler owns one of the best in-vessel composters on the market today, and this composter is able to generate stable high temperatures in excess of 65C for up to two weeks, which effectively kills pathogens that are in the biosolids. The product then cures for another 3-4 months before it is screened, blended with sand and then sold to local landscapers and the public.  The product can be also used unmixed as a contaminant neutralization layer in biofilters such as the ones the Whistler's large outdoor parking lots drain into.

Composted biosolids are an important source of nutrients. As the world moves closer to a shortage of phosphorous and increased costs for synthetically derived fertilizers, biosolids become an even more important source of nutrients.

Both biosolids and the compost produced using biosolids are regulated. Whistler compost is tested regularly to ensure that pathogens and metals are all in compliance with Federal and Provincial Regulations.

Concerns regarding hormones and pharmaceuticals in composted biosolids are unsubstantiated.  There does not seem to be the same concern for dairy or poultry manure, which can contain extremely high levels of antibiotics and growth hormones. We do not seem to have any issues with using this for fertilizing food crops, so why should we have an issue with using compost derived from biosolids?