Mike McKibbin

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January 23, 2013
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Compost piles due to be removed by this fall

By Halloween, the city of Rifle's ill-fated compost operations in West Rifle are to be removed, under the terms of an amended agreement with the compost contractor.

City Council approved a second amendment to the contract with Cacaloco owner Jim Duke on Jan. 16. The city and Duke first agreed to a contract to operate the site in the spring of 2011.

The compost operation - an estimated 10,000 cubic yards of materials were collected at the site - generated numerous odor complaints from nearby residents and businesses last year and the city issued a cease and desist order.

The city leases five acres of land adjacent to the city wastewater treatment plant on U.S. Highway 6 to Cacaloco, and Duke will work with Johnson Construction to help manage the remaining materials, said City Attorney Jim Neu.

Detailed steps

The amendment requires that the bulking materials and trash that are not part of the current compost piles be removed in April, and Cacaloco shall keep the site free of litter and debris and pick up trash at least weekly.

Cacaloco cannot sell finished compost until next planting season, and the amendment calls for the lease to expire on Oct. 31 so there is an opportunity to finish and sell the compost, Neu said.

The amendment sets operational requirements to address any new complaints the city may receive as the site is reclaimed, Neu said.

"We want to proceed cautiously to try to prevent odors," he told council. "But I'm sure we won't have anything like we had last year."

To mitigate odors, Cacaloco shall only screen materials and disturb or turn piles when prevailing winds are favorable and not out of the west, southwest or south, the amendment reads. If the city receives odor complaints from neighboring residents, Cacaloco will be limited to disturbing piles between 6 to 10 a.m., or take other efforts approved by the city to resolve the complaints.

Cacaloco shall operate at least weekly to show progress in screening and completing the composting of the existing piles to create a marketable debris-free product by the end of October, the amendment continues.

To make the removal of the existing piles economically feasible, the city waived any past due rent or future rent, as long as Cacaloco follows the terms of the amendment and the lease.

The city will also receive $20,000 worth of compost for its use next season, which equals 750 cubic yards.

Duke lists operational problems

Duke wrote a more than 2,000-word letter to the city, detailing his experience operating the compost piles and with the city and affected neighbors. In it, Duke said he ended up investing close to $350,000 in the site due to cost overruns, lengthy permitting processes, miscommunications with the city and other involved entities.

Duke noted several times that he did not intend to lay blame for the compost operation problems on the city or anyone else.

"I reiterate how great the city of Rifle has been to work with, and most especially the wastewater facility staff," Duke wrote. "I don't believe anyone with the city to be at fault or to bear ill-intent in relation to this situation. I believe the same is true of Cacaloco. Nonetheless, mistakes were made. I believe that mistakes were made to some degree by all the numerous agencies involved, often compounding the mistakes of others. My point is that I believe the city of Rifle also shares at least a little of the responsibility for the whole situation."

Duke said he tried to reduce the odors and spent $30,000 on odor control agents. He also noted he had operated a successful compost operation at the city of Glenwood Springs' South Canyon landfill for 15 years when Rifle contacted him about the West Rifle plans.

"Since that time, I've had to sell most of my equipment just to pay immediate debts and remain over $300,000 in debt with no significant source of income and closure/post-closure expenses ahead," Duke wrote.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 23, 2013 04:49PM Published Jan 23, 2013 04:48PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.