The city has a large compost operation. Their inputs are yard waste that people bring to the dump and sewage sludge. The result is Class A compost:

Class A biosolids have undergone treatment to the point where the concentration of pathogens is reduced to levels low enough that no additional restrictions or special handling precautions are required by Federal regulations [40 CFR* Part 503]. If the Class A biosolids meet exceptional quality requirements for metals content, they may be sold in bags and applied in the same way as other soil conditioners such as peat moss.

In March 2010 helen.benali​ reported buying a load of compost and finding a needle in it:

Last Friday I went into town to pick up a load of the city compost for my flower beds. I have a friend who was telling me I really should not use that dirt because it is toxic. She explained that after the effluent has gone through the treatment plant and then is mixed with the yard waste, it still contains chemicals, and items that people flush down their toilets, drain cleaners, medications, condoms, etc. I had my doubts about her claims, and so purchased the dirt anyway, big mistake! When I began raking the dirt off my pick up I noticed little bits of plastic and stuff, I thought what a pain that was going to be to clean out of the dirt, but then something came off the truck that really caught my eye. Much to my horror, I found a hypodermic needle! My friend's warning rang in my ears. I have not touched the dirt since I took it off my pick up. I am not sure what I am going to do with it. When it comes to flower gardening I am on my hands and knees in my garden. I wear garden gloves, alas they are no protection against hazards such as hypodermic needles. If the county can not find a better method of cleaning the compost before selling it, they should at least fore-warn people that they may come across dangerous items in their compost. That might be a way to avoid a lawsuit. I am very concerned, as this really is an issue that needs to be addressed before someone gets seriously injured.


Response from the City:

Hello Cali,

As Marjorie said below sometimes pieces of plastics get into the compost but our screening process removes most of it if not almost all of it.   

The compost facility has been in operation since 1993 and this is the first time we have ever heard of anyone finding a hypodermic needle in the compost materials.  I have worked for the City for over 32 years and I have never seen a needle in our wastewater system or compost materials.  At our Wastewater Treatment Facility we have a screen that screens down to ¼ inch and the compost facility has a screen that is at 3/8”.   We make every effort to capture any sharps that maybe in the biosolids or septage solids that are mixed with the ground yard debris and then composted to meet the EPA Part 503, Washington State Department of Ecology 173-308 Biosolids Rule and the Washington State Department of Ecology 173-350 Solid Waste Regulations.  All of these regulations require us to have our composting process get the pile temperatures to over 131 Deg F for three days for the Pathogen Reduction requirement and then the temperatures are to be held at or above 114 Deg F for 14 days for the Vector Reduction requirements.  Our process is a aerated static pile process and easily meets the time and temperature requirements with temperatures up to 160 Deg F +.  After the composting process we then screen the compost materials with a screen that has opening ½” by 4” and the materials that go through this screen is tested and then put out for sale.  We test all of the materials that we sell for pathogens, metals  and several other parameters.  I have attached the results of our testing for the last couple batches  for your information.  The compost is classified as Class A Compost under these regulations and has unrestricted use.

 Again, out of all of these years (16 +) of operation we have never had a complaint of finding hypodermic needles in our product.  We make every effort to not have this happen. Over these years we have produced approximately 76,000 cubic yards of compost.    We have a considerable number of people that have used our compost product for years and they are very satisfied with the product, myself included.  I use the compost in my garden and have done so for years. 

I hope this relieves some of the concerns and if you have any other questions please feel free to contact me at360-379-4432 or e-mail [email protected]

John Merchant

Operations Manager

City of Port Townsend