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