Crook to send dead animals to Washington

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 26. 2007 5:00AM PST

Crook County officials say they have come up with a solution for disposing of the 90,000 pounds of animal carcasses and byproducts being dropped off at the county landfill each month.

The County Court has approved a plan to begin trucking the waste to a rendering plant in Tacoma, Wash., in October. That’s when the county’s one-year permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality allowing the landfill to bury dead animals expires.

The problem of what to do with all the material stems from the shutdown in October of Redmond Tallow, Oregon’s last meat rendering plant in operation. Seeing a need for local butchers, farmers and hunters, the county landfill obtained the temporary permit from DEQ to accept animals.

But Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper said the county never expected to receive as much waste as it has so far — the equivalent of about 90 cows a month.

He added that DEQ has told officials an extension of the one-year permit “would not be looked upon favorably.”

“We didn’t really want to do the extension if we could find another alternative,” Cooper said. “Burying dead animals in the ground wasn’t the most pleasant task ever, and we just don’t like it. We’re taking up a lot more space than what we had originally thought because we were getting so many.”

Starting in the fall, the county will be contracting with Irving, Texas-based company Darling International, which operates a rendering plant in Tacoma, to haul away the animal products that people can still drop off at the landfill. Cooper estimated that a refrigerated truck and other items for storing the waste at the landfill in between the truck’s weekly pickups will cost between $15,000 and $17,000.

Increased costs

The cost of taking dead animals to the landfill will also increase after October, Cooper said. Right now, the charge is $5 per animal plus the regular weight fee of $25 per ton. Trucking the materials to Tacoma will cost users 7 cents per pound, or $70 for an average-sized cow of 1,000 pounds.

Lanny Berman, co-owner of the custom meat cutting shop Butcher Boys in Prineville, said his costs have already escalated since Redmond Tallow closed, and he expects the business will take more of a hit after October. Previously, the shop sent all its waste to Redmond Tallow, which charged a flat fee of $60 a month, he said.

“We go up (to the landfill) anywhere from two to four times a week, just depending on how much we’re producing,” Berman said. “When we were really busy last fall, after Redmond Tallow shut down, it would be anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 pounds a week.”

The Crook County Landfill accepts out-of-county drop-offs, Cooper said. Since Redmond Tallow closed, the Deschutes County Solid Waste Department has taken animal remains on a case-by-case basis, Accounting Tech Debbie Parret said. But she estimated that the department gets only four or five inquiries a month about disposing carcasses.

Cooper said that with the county’s small farms, there is a local need for the landfill’s service.

“It’s just one that we thought should be dealt with as a continuing service to our community,” he said. “We were a bit astonished when we did a call around to the other counties and said, ‘What are you doing?’ and most of them said, ‘We’re waiting for you to do something.’”

An ad hoc committee, which recommended last week that the County Court approve the trucking option, also examined other methods for disposing of the material, including composting or a machine that would sterilize the waste through chemical reduction. But Barbi Riggs, the Central Oregon livestock agent with Oregon State University’s Crook County Extension Service, said those methods would have required an upfront investment of at least $1 million.

What’s next

At the state level, a task force is also working on finding ways to dispose of animal byproducts without shipping them out of state, said Jerry Gardner, business development manager for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Gardner, who started working on putting the task force together last year, said the group estimates that Oregon produces about 41,000 tons of animal byproducts every year, and right now the main option businesses have is to ship that to rendering plants in Chico, Calif., Tacoma or Seattle.

Gardner said that the group has hired consultants to analyze the different technologies available for handling the waste, a report that should be completed by the end of August.

“Then when we get that we hope that that information will help bring businesses to town that will use that information to process some of this material more locally and reduce operating costs for some of the people in this business,” he said.

Rendering option

Riggs of the Crook County Extension Service and Berman of Butcher Boys in Prineville also said that a new private rendering facility would be the best option.

“Rendering facilities are kind of like our garbage disposal —they’re taking all of the material from butcher shops, any kind of mortality, and then they’re taking that waste and they’re making a usable product out of it,” Riggs said. “Those products go into feed, they go into tallow for cosmetics. It takes a wasteful product and makes it a marketable item.”

But she added there are significant hurdles for private facilities, including environmental regulations and start-up costs.

“If you look at it nationwide, it’s really not a very large amount compared to other places,” she said, pointing out that areas with large animal feedlots produce much more waste. “That’s why we’re having trouble in getting people interested in setting up another rendering facility in the state, because statewide we really don’t produce that much.”

Cooper also expressed skepticism about another rendering plant opening. He said he has talked with some companies to see if they would be interested in expanding to Central Oregon, but hasn’t seen much interest.

“(Trucking to Tacoma) is our interim solution for the next few years while the state team works on a bigger, longer-term solution,” he said.

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