Monday, October 12, 2015

Local media duped: Apple maggot interrupts yard waste movement

By Ken McEntee

Composting News

The Washington State Department of Agriculture is continuing to work with composters in the eastern part of the state to ensure that apple maggots don’t threaten the state’s $2 billion apple industry, said Steve Fuller, policy assistant to the state director of agriculture.

Fuller said the department has hired three consultants to assist in a pest-risk analysis, which is expected to be completed in March 2016.

He said a quarantine on food waste being transported from western Washington to composting facilities in eastern Washington remains in effect.

Meanwhile, the Washington Organic Recycling Council (WORC) said local media falsely reported that the department shut down two composting facilities in Eastern Washington for operating without a permit to accept organic material. Specifically, television station KIMA, in Yakima, Wash., reported the shutdowns based on unchecked press releases from what WORC said were fictitious organizations using the names Western Washington Compost Alliance and the Washington State Composting News. Neither of those organizations appear to exist.

“All of our member compost facilities in eastern Washington are still open for business and have been operating legally,” WORC said.

Apple maggots deposit eggs in apples. The larvae eat the fruit and eventually emerge as flies during the spring. The maggots are common west of the Cascade Mountains, where 60 to 80 percent of the apple trees are thought to be infested, Fuller said. The bulk of the state’s apple industry is located east of the Cascades.

Fuller said apple growers became concerned about potential infestation of their orchards after PacifiClean Environmental LLC signed a contract to haul yard waste from Seattle, in western Washington, to its composting facility in Quincy, in the east. 

“That was the trigger that caused the concern,” Fuller said. “There are apples in the backyard green waste bins and that is a potential pathway for apple maggots to move across the state.”

Along with PacifiClean, three other composters, he said, were receiving yard waste from the state’s quarantined area. The agriculture department asked those facilities to stop processing municipal green waste delivered from the quarantined area of the state. Besides PacifiClean, the others were Royal Organic Products, of Royal City, Barr-Tech Composting, in Spokane, and Natural Selection Farms, of Sunnyside.

Fuller said those facilities are operating, but are not taking yard waste from the quarantined area.  He said the facilities are cooperating with the state and could be able to process the material once research shows that there is no danger of apple maggot infestation.

“We have been working to identify the right set of operating conditions that would allow composters to control the risk of spreading apple maggots,” Fuller said. “We want them to be successful in the composting business while affording the apple industry the protection that it needs.”

Presently, he said, it is believed that the heat generated during the composting process is sufficient to kill the apple maggot larvae and pupae, but that needs to be confirmed in a “scientifically rigorous way.”

Fuller said two consultants from the U.S. and an international consultant have been hired to conduct the pest-risk analysis.

Officials from PacifiClean and Natural Selection Farms did not returned calls to Composting News prior to publication.

Dan Corum, president of WORC, commenting on the media reports, which were based on information from apparently phony organizations, said, “It is puzzling and unfortunate that someone would perceive a need to issue false information anonymously. Eastern Washington compost facilities are and have been open and operating legally within their permits and in cooperation with state and local regulators. WORC member compost facilities have been cooperative and working with regulators to find beneficial solutions to issues that impact both agriculture and composters.”

He said WORC members have been active in the recent developments regarding special permits to be issued by the department of agriculture for the transportation and composting of food and yard trimmings from quarantine areas for apple maggot to compost facilities located within pest-free areas of the state.

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