Planning and Zoning Commission approves Turning Earth

June 11, 2014

Planning and Zoning voted recently to approve the special permit application of Turning Earth, an organics recycling company partnering with Covanta Energy to build a new, $20 million state-of-the-art facility in Southington.
The facility, which will be located in an industrial zone at 111 Spring Street, will be the first integrated high solids anaerobic digestion and in-vessel composting facility in the northeast where it will recycle municipal and commercial and organic waste streams from over a dozen communities in central Connecticut. During a meeting last Tuesday, the commission voted 6 to 1 in favor of the application for the construction of multiple buildings to facilitate the development and operations of the facility.
“I’m very happy this is coming to Southington,” said Planning and Zoning Chairman Mike DelSanto, who voted in favor of the application. “This is the stuff that puts Southington on the map…we’re open for business, and this is the business that we want.”
Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to table Turning Earth’s special permit application after some residents expressed concern for the proposal during a public hearing, citing traffic as an issue. Geoffrey Fitzgerald, a professional engineer of BL Companies who represented Turning Earth, said between 19 and 20 trucks would enter the facility per day through the same access point as BJs, which receives deliveries around the clock. Turning Earth will receive organics from vendors Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
During the meeting, Fitzgerald said all vendors delivering to the site should travel via I-84, off exit 32.
“This is a very low, traffic generating facility,” said Fitzgerald, adding there will be an average of 75 vehicle trips to and from the facility per day.
Last year, the state legislature required certain businesses that produce large amounts of organic wastes to recycle such material to create clean energy and sustainability. Examples of these businesses include wholesalers, supermarkets, resorts and conference centers. As an organics recycling company, Turning Earth receives food waste, yard waste, industrial organic waste streams and agriculture wastes that are diverted from landfills. Under a biological process called anaerobic digestion, which occurs without oxygen, Turning Earth produces biogas, which can be turned into different energy end products, such as electricity and vehicular fuels, according to the company’s presentation.  After the biogas process, the material turns into compost and is further refined into engineered soil products with industrial, residential and agricultural uses and environmental benefits. The final step involves using heat created during the biogas conversion activities to create ideal conditions for the development of sustainably and locally grown foods.
During another public hearing, local resident Beth Miller, along with her daughter, spoke publicly about their composting activities at home, expressing their excitement for the facility coming to Southington.
“It’s a really fantastic opportunity for Southington as a town to make a real positive impact on the entire world,” said Miller, who shared photos of her family’s four-year compost pile.
Resident Peter Egan also spoke in favor of the application. He said the facility is healthy for the tax base.
“It’s going to provide some relief for the residential property owners and taxpayers of Southington,” said Egan. “That is good tax revenue that will come in the town of Southington.”
“It is something that is needed badly,” added Southington resident Grant Sewes.
During the hearing, Bruce Day, of Spring Street, did not speak in favor of the application.
“I think we have to be very concerned about the long-term implications of this facility in that particular location for Southington’s residential future,” said Day.
Turning Earth’s is expected to open in early 2016. The facility will convert 50,000 tons annually of source separated organics and 25,000 tons per year of leaf, woody and yard waste into a variety of resources, such as renewable energy, rich, fertile compost and locally grown food. The facility will also have positive environmental effects, such as the reduction of carbon dioxide and a production of renewable electricity to provide power for nearly 10,000 homes.
For more information about Turning Earth, visit http://turningearthllc.com/.

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