Georgia County Assumes Control of Compost Plant

After more than two years of operating below capacity, Marietta, Ga.-based Bedminster Biocoversion Corp.'s composting plant in Cobb County, Ga., has been turned over to the county.

As part of the agreement, Cobb County has assumed the company's $175,000 debt and gained complete control and ownership of the plant. The county also hired the plant's 26 employees, including maintenance workers, office staff and plant managers, at their same salary.

Dain Kistner, marketing director at Bedminster Cobb - as the facility is known - says the plant was losing money and the new agreement is "a win-win scenario."

"The facility was costing more to run than we received on the contract we signed with the county in 1995," he says, citing the $2.5 million the plant received this year. "It took longer than [the contract stated] to start up, and we were taking a bath on this thing financially."

The Cobb County plant originally opened in 1996, but it was plagued with two fires that year causing $12.5 million in damages. There also were several neighbor complaints about odor. The company closed the facility in late 1996, rebuilt and reopened the plant in June 1998 using insurance money from the fire, Kistner says.

Yet even without fires or odor complaints, the new plant still only was processing about half of the 300 tons per day (tpd) of compost it was built to process.

"We certainly did run 300 tpd on a number of days, just not 30 days in a row," Kistner says. "We didn't want to try to jam 300 tpd from the word go - we knew there were little things you have to do to go from brand new equipment to equipment operating the way it needs to, and we knew we wanted to start slowly."

The plant also was working with smaller, independent haulers, whose loads were smaller and less consistent, Kistner says.

"The county is working to get larger haulers to contract that we didn't have before," he notes.

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, Marietta, Ga., Cobb County Commission Chairman Bill Byrne has praised the facility but noted that it has sold almost no compost. Instead, it was being stored at the plant while Bedminster searched for an alternative storage location, Kistner says.

"It's not impossible to market [the compost], but it was hard," he says. "We only had about 15 days worth of sewage on site. We couldn't move that much material every day."

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, he says the county will oversee compost sales. He also told the newspaper he expects a profit of about $200,000 per year.

Bedminster will serve as an advisor to the plant and Cobb County will be able to use the resources of the five other Bedminster facilities across the country, Kistner says.