Leaves go to compost piles - 11/24/04
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News from Royal Oak, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Madison Heights, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Hazel Park, Clawson

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

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David Coates / The Detroit News

About 20,372 tons of leaves from southeast Oakland County are collected each year, says Mike Czuprenski, operations director for SOCRRA.

Leaves go to compost piles

Communities' collections transported to compost site to be farmed

Image
David Coates / The Detroit News

About 20,372 tons of leaves from southeast Oakland County are collected each year, says Mike Czuprenski, operations director for SOCRRA.

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ROYAL OAK -- What happens to the 20,372 tons of leaves that get vacuumed at the curb each autumn in southeast Oakland County?

Mike Czuprenski knows. He's the operations director for the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, a position he's held for 15 years.

Each autumn, some 100,000 home and property owners in the 12 SOCRRA communities go through the familiar ritual of raking or blowing their leaves to the curb for the annual leaf collection.

After vacuuming their streets, the cities deliver the leaves to SOCRRA. Czuprenski talked with The Detroit News about what happens next.

Q: Where are the leaves taken?

A: The cities deliver the leaves in truckloads to our compost farm in Rochester Hills. The farm sits above the SOCRRA landfill near Dequindre and Hamlin roads. On an average autumn day we receive 20 truckloads, but at the peak of leaf season, it's about 30 truckloads a day. During the main six weeks of leaf delivery, three people at the compost farm work ten hours a day, six days a week.

Q: What do they do with the leaves?

A: They use farming equipment to make windrows, which are long piles of leaves in parallel lines. It's compost farming. We watch the weather and wind direction and study the microorganisms in the pile. We balance the temperature to let the microorganisms do their thing.

Q: What do you do with the windrows?

A: In winter, we add wood chips from Christmas trees. In spring, we add some grass. We need to balance the volume of grass and leaves and we turn over the piles with the farming equipment. By the end of summer, it looks like garden humus. We screen it in the fall. That process will result in 18,000 cubic yards of finished garden humus. It's very high quality.

Q: What do you do with the humus?

A: There's a significant cost to making the humus, so we guard it. We sell it to gardeners and golf courses. We don't give it away outside our area. But we deliver it to member communities and offer it free of charge to SOCRRA residents.

Cindy Hampel is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer.



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