County criticizes Wallace Farm

Published 9:16 am Thursday, October 6, 2016

County Manager Mike Ruffin had some words owners and neighbors of Wallace Farm didn’t want to hear.

At last month’s county commission meeting, Ruffin said that the composting business likely will never be able to confine all odors to their property, as state regulatory agencies said was the goal. “I don’t think that will happen.”

He also said those agencies have a failed plan to pinpoint the cause of the odors (Davie Schools have placed filters on ventilation systems at Pinebrook, North Davie and the new Davie High).

“I’ve been out there four or five times,” Ruffin said, noting he noticed an odor, but the intensity and duration of odors is difficult to document. “We’ve not ignored it. We’re trying to to do what we can.”

He said that Wallace Farm, at the end of Lee Jackson Drive, was not properly prepared to open the facility, and do not use best practices to minimize odors. The company had inadequate equipment and staff on site. He suggested an aerosol deodorant used at a facility in Gaston County – one which got multiple complaints that were reduced greatly after using the deodorant.

The company, he said, does not communicate well and is not transparent. “It’s going to take a while for Wallace Farm to get their practices in place … they have a lot of room to go. Present conditions are not acceptable.”

After meeting with company officials in August, area residents said the odors curtailed for about 10 days before cranking back up.

Mark Jones, county commissioner who is one of those neighbors (across I-40),  said the regulatory agencies need to do a better job. “It should be the role of the state of North Carolina that permits these folks. They should be proactive instead of reactive. The state’s response to this has been lax.”

Commissioners expressed concern the business was issued a permit without input from the county or from residents. “I cannot believe in this day and age, a permit can be issued and nobody has an opportunity to weigh in on it,” Ruffin said.

“Eric (Wallace, company president), you need to get on top of this,” said Commissioner Dan Barrett. “We can stay on top of this, and we will try to get compliance with the state.”

“I assure we will follow up with the state,” said Board Chair Terry Renegar.

“Something has got to be done,” Ruffin said. “We don’t have the authority … but we can advocate and we will continue to advocate.”

Barrett said Wallace Farm is an industrial enterprise, and not an agriculture one that Pete Gallins operates near the new Davie High. Although the same process, Gallins is on a much smaller scale with different materials going into the piles. The composters take green materials, such as food waste from restaurants, and mix them with other natural ingredients to heat into a compost that can be used to enrich soil.

Neighbor Ted Randolph told the board he decided to go to Wallace Farm headquarters in Mecklenburg County. He showed pictures of what he saw. “It’s not pleasant,” Randolph said. “It is an eyesore. It smells so bad, it’s beyond me how people can enjoy their daily lives. It smells like a trash dump.

“If he’s going to do that here, it’s disheartening.” It lowers neighboring property values, Randolph said.

“He says he’s trying, which is bs. It’s time for you guys and everybody else to step up.”