The search is on to figure out how small traces of herbicides made their way into compost from Green Mountain Compost in Williston.
"Our investigation's not finding any misuse that has occurred in Vermont, so it is not like anybody did anything wrong," said Cary Giguere, the pesticide program chief with Vermont's Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
The team at Vermont's Agency of Agriculture is involved in the effort. It's looking at the yard and food waste and manure that make up the mix.
The compost has been used by roughly 500 homeowners across the state, who have seen their plants wilt and produce smaller crops.
"Our trace back investigation is now focusing on what's coming into the state, whether it's horse bedding, hay or small grains," Giguere said.
Early tests show 5 to 10 parts per billion of the herbicide Picloram in some compost samples. To put that into perspective, experts say 500 parts per billion of the same substance are deemed safe for consumption in drinking water.
"The problem is because at these very low levels they still cause harm to plants," Giguere said.
Thomas Moreau is the general manager of the Chittenden Solid Waste District and oversees compost production at Green Mountain Compost. He says the way the compost is being processed at the new Williston plant could be contributing to the problem.
"Before we used just atmosphere air trying to defuse itself into the pile, now we're really actively blowing air into it so it gets much hotter much faster for a longer period of time," Moreau said.
Right now scientists are trying to figure out if the increased exposure to heat during the composting process is releasing the previously undetected herbicides from plant tissues.
"We feel that these herbicides were always here, but for some reason the new process has made them unsequestered, made them more available," Moreau said.
The Ag department says gardeners don't need to worry about the exposure, but getting to the heart of the problem will be good for their gardens.
"The reason they have not been banned yet as a class of chemicals is because there are relatively nontoxic to humans," Giguere said.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District has already spent $30,000 to have compost samples tested to pinpoint the contaminants and how they made their way into the mix.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District released its September newsletter Tuesday, acknowledging that it is continuing to work with the EPA and herbicide producers to solve the problem and prevent future ones.
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:54:18 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:25 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:25:14 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:35 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:35:15 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>