EKO Compost

EKO Compost currently sells composted human sewage sludge as a landscape compost.

Provided

The former EKO Compost is now a part of the wastewater treatment division, although as Mayor John Engen was reminded Monday night, that’s not technically its name anymore.

He introduced a step in the city’s ongoing absorption of the utility at the weekly city council meeting, before Finance Director Leigh Griffing corrected him.

It’s “what we’re now calling the ‘compost operation,’ ” she said.

Wednesday’s Public Works committee meeting will discuss the proposed name – Garden City Compost.

Council unanimously approved the compost motion, which acknowledged its place in the wastewater division through a budget line item, that showed it’s budgeted to earn a little under $300,000 in this fiscal year.

Wastewater Superintendent Starr Sullivan said they took on six employees from EKO Compost who will continue to run the operation as city employees, though right now they’re splitting their time between wastewater offices and the old EKO building.

“We’re trying to incorporate them as much as we can, but we’re really tight for space,” he said.

It was a natural decision to add composting to the wastewater division, Sullivan said, since they’ve been looking for a beneficial reuse for their biosolid (or sludge) leftovers from the water treatment plant.

The sludge has always been considered a waste product, “but it’s really more of a resource.”

“We look at it as an extension of our biosolids management,” he said.

Council members made sure to remind Missoulians that the compost operation won’t increase tax or utility bills, as the wastewater plant is run from an enterprise fund, not from tax dollars, and those who use the compost operation pay based on what they bring to recycle.

Ward 6 representative Marilyn Marler said that’s mostly leaves or tree clippings, but she’s interested in expanding to composting food waste from schools or hospitals.

But priority number one, as Marler and other council members agreed, was stopping the compost center’s fungal funk.

“We’ll be able to work in a coordinated way on the odor control,” she said. “It’s a big issue on my side of town and a very real one.”

Ward 4 representative Jon Wilkins said the parks and recreation department uses quite a bit of compost from EKO, which can be a big expense for the city.

“So I’m sure we’re gonna get a discount on that now,” he said.

Ward 2 representative Harlan Wells was absent Monday night, marking the first time in several weeks the Mountain Water legal expenses passed in a unanimous vote. He always votes against the expense, which totaled just under $12,500 Monday.

Bob Moore, who lives in Ward 2, gave public comment on the Mountain Water money, saying he thought enough had been spent on the utility acquisition.

“If you don’t think it’s enough that’s been spent, go ahead and approve this,” he said, citing Engen’s initial 2014 quote of $400,000.

The city passed that mark early in the process, several months before the eminent domain trial that began in March 2015.

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