Using grant funding, New Paltz officials are poised to significantly improve a composting program that is already a standout in this region. Equipment is being purchased that is intended both to speed up the composting process, and to reduce the involvement of all the other life forms that enjoy participating including insects, birds, mammals and plants.
Part of a longstanding zero-waste initiative in the town, the composting program is designed to prevent organic matter from ending up in landfills. All living matter breaks down over time, because it’s food for some other being, but landfills largely block that natural process from happening at all. With as much of a third of what humans throw away being leftover food, composting is seen as important for moving away from the 1950s lifestyle that has resulted in a wide variety of environmental problems.
In nature, the way life decomposes can be a bit smelly and messy to behold, but the promise of injecting science into composting is that it removes all that nature in the interest of transforming what humans don’t want into a substance that is necessary for building soil and sustaining more life. The technology being purchased includes air pumps designed to allow only microorganisms to work on decomposition, and to speed up how quickly they do it.
New Paltz residents are allowed to drop off food and yard waste for composting, and once it’s been transformed into the “black gold” that gardeners prize it can be purchased for the low price of $30 a cubic yard, which is roughly half a ton of the stuff. Town employees will even deliver it locally, for another $150.
Well placed fencing
Plans to tap into water under Moriello Park in New Paltz to help reduce dependence on the water-extraction aqueduct that transports trillions of gallons of local water to New York City are going to be a bit less unsightly, thanks to advocacy by town officials. Instead of a six-foot chain link fence along a much-used path, the wells and systems will be protected by a low-profile cage obscured by bushes, once the project is complete.
The well project was initiated because New York City officials, who have collected local water for free for over a century, have been hiking the prices charged to local users more than ten percent a year on average. When the Catskill aqueduct was built through town in the 1920s, village officials decided to make the local water supply entirely dependent on tapping into that big pipe. That dependence has not only become expensive, it’s also inconvenient to New York City officials who wanted to shut down the aqueduct for maintenance. Those factors prompted Mayor Tim Rogers to start looking for sites for local wells, and one of the best prospects was found in Moriello Park, a joint town-village property.
Many requirements have had to be fulfilled to make that happen. Water sources must be protected from contamination, and those measures were in conflict with parkland, which is intended to be used by anyone. A portion of the park had to be “alienated,” a process that involves coming up with other land to replace what was lost — in this case, by expanding Hasbrouck Park slightly, and in the process improving a dangerous intersection. Protecting well heads and equipment also requires a physical barrier, which normally is a six-foot-high chain link fence. Town officials quailed at this, imagining what’s now a short trail through woods becoming a walk past an industrial intrusion.
While attempts to make changes were initially met with untested assertions that a tall chain link fence was the only option, through time and attention a compromise plan that complies with health regulations was reached. The result will be a protective cage that’s just 30 inches in height, and that will be obscured by planting bushes all around.
Village officials will be permitted to pump as much as 132 gallons per minute from the wells, once they are up and running.