Farmington residents filled sitting and standing room in the Town Council Chamber and spilled into the hallway on Monday night as Ben Dunning addressed the Town Planning and Zoning Commission about his proposal to expand his company's composting operation.
"I'm looking to be just a small part of the solution," Dunning said of providing a place for organic waste to go.
Dunning acknowledged that there are many misconceptions about composting. He stressed that the practice is not "just putting trash in the ground and letting it rot."
"We're not just going to put in piles of 'let it rot.' That's not what you want," Dunning, owner of Dunning Sand & Gravel, said.
Dunning, who comes from a farming background, is hoping to grow the composting side of his business as a green initiative for his Farmington company.
"We always lived on a farm and composted everything," Dunning said. "We're going from farm to table, but what about going back to the farm?"
Dunning passed around current composted soil samples for members of the public in attendance to smell and feel.
Dunning Sand & Gravel has already been composting leaves for two years, but Dunning is looking to compost other ingredients like food scraps from large kitchens at places such as UConn and Connecticut Central State University. Dunning said he is going to avoid using post-consumer waste from cafeterias that could have contaminants like stray silverware thrown away.
Dunning addressed concerns of smell and traffic from residents and commission members, stating that he doesn't anticipate a foul odor issue or too much of an increase in traffic.
While he said he can't promise there won't be an odor, he said that if there was a smell, it would be more earthy. Composted soiled would only emit an odor because of an anaerobic reaction, he said.
Dunning plans on adding two jobs for compost monitors to check the samples' temperature and odor every day.
He encouraged residents with concerns to come to him and said his door is always open for tours of the proposed facility.
"If it's really that bad, I'll go back and leave," Dunning said. "I don't want to be a nuisance to people."
Dunning said he'd be willing to do the additional organic composting on a trial basis to see how it goes.
After about a three-hour public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the application and agreed to continue the public hearing to its next meeting.