The Karlstad compost site is now divided into three defined cells by cement blocks. The city bought these cement blocks from Davidson Construction and brought them in in three part loads a few weeks ago. (Photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The three sections of the Karlstad Composting Plant differ not only in the blocks, but also in the signs shown here. One pile is for tree stumps and tree trunks, a second for branches, scrub and leaves, and a third for grass clippings and garden waste. The site is open 24/7. (Photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Just a minute or two by car from the Karlstad town shop and the water tower – through a wooded area – you will find three houses separated by cement blocks in an open area. These houses have no roof, no high walls and most of the time they are not inhabited by people. What kind of houses are these exactly?

They are home to the compost heaps at the Karlstad compost site – now divided into three defined cells by cement blocks. They differ not only in the blocks, but also in the signage. One pile is for tree stumps and tree trunks, a second for branches, scrub and leaves, and a third for grass clippings and garden waste.

“It (getting those cement blocks) was sort of a separation, I think, so it’s easier (to) burn,” said Mark Olson, the city maintenance worker. “The brush and the leaves will be easier to burn than green garden waste mixed with the large stumps and dirt. Then you can burn the heap very cleanly. “

The city bought these cement blocks from Davidson Construction and brought them in in three part loads a few weeks ago. She might have installed these blocks a few weeks ago, but the city “always” had a pile of brushes in this area, Olson said.
When each cell is full, the city goes out and pushes it up with a payloader to make more space.

As for incineration, the city will not incinerate this material if it is too dry or if there is a ban on incineration. It burns when it can and when it is safe, without a fixed schedule. Sometimes the fire department will have the compost burned, but the city usually burns it itself. When deciding when to burn, the city monitors whether the area is blowing south winds for two to three days to keep the smoke north out of the City blows.

The city will burn the pile of brushes for many years until it turns into dirt that doesn’t burn. At the time, the city is simply digging the rest of it with the backhoe to open up a new site, Olson explained.

As for a further improvement of the compost location, the city had the Ottertail Power Company set up a couple of cameras in this area last spring.

For the full story, see the July 15th issue of the North Star News in print or online.