Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ohio EPA Enacts New Composting Rules That Exempt Small Compost Bins

As reported here in December (in a surprisingly popular article), the Ohio EPA had proposed new solid waste rules governing composting. The proposed rules would create an exemption for small compost bins used by many individuals and community gardens.

According to the Ohio EPA website:

Ohio law (Chapter 3734 of the Ohio Revised Code) considers solid waste composting a form of solid waste disposal utilizing controlled biological decomposition. Therefore, composting is regulated by the Ohio EPA-DSIWM Composting Unit. Current rules regarding solid waste composting can be found under Chapter 3745-27 of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), specifically Rules 3745-27-40 to 3745-27-47.

The solid waste composting program requires or specifies that a composting facility obtains a registration, license, and/or permit as applicable, according to the classification of the facility. Other requirements established by the program include: what types of wastes can be composted, operational requirements of the facility, and testing requirements for the finished product prior to distribution. Wastes which may be acceptable for composting are categorized as feed stocks types, bulking agents or additives.

The composting rules classify composting facilities according to the wastes that can be accepted and, in some cases, the size of the facility.

The proposed rules were approved by the Joint Agency on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) and were published by the Ohio EPA last Thursday. The new Ohio Administrative Rule 3745-560-01 becomes effective on April 2, 2012 and provides an exemption for small compost bins from the applicability of other OEPA rules governing composting facilities as follows:

3745-560-01 Composting facilities - applicability.
(A) This chapter is the program chapter for composting facilities.
(B) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (E) of this rule, this chapter shall apply to any person who establishes or operates a solid waste composting facility in the state of Ohio.
. . .
(E) This chapter shall not apply to the following:

(1) Any person composting yard waste, agricultural waste, animal waste, food scraps, bulking agents, and additives within an aggregate area not greater than three hundred square feet on any premises in a manner that noise, dust, and odors do not constitute a nuisance or health hazard and does not cause or contribute to surface or ground water pollution.

(bolding added for emphasis).

Of course, just because small compost bins are now generally exempt from oversight by the OEPA does not end legal compliance issues. OEPA still will take interest in any compost bin which creates a nuisance or health hazard or contributes to surface or ground water pollution. In addition, the city and/or county may still take an interest in the bin even if OEPA does not.

In any event, community gardeners throughout Ohio can start this year’s growing season relieved that the OEPA will not be knocking on their gates this year to inspect their modest composting arrangements.

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