Greater restrictions imposed on mulch processing in Monroe

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | May 16, 2018 | MonroeNow

Monroe Township’s commitment to protecting the environment was questioned last week after a resident wanted answers as to why the council was prepared to adopt an ordinance that imposes greater restrictions on mulch processing.

Roger West Jr., who conducts mulch processing in the township, said during the meeting, “You guys are calling yourself the recycle coach. I don’t understand how you can be a coach when you’re kicking people in the face [who are] first-, second- [and] third-generation farmers out here that are just trying to make a living.”

At the May 7 Township Council meeting, officials approved an ordinance that reduced the number of hours per day mulch processing can occur during the week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during that same five day span. It also specified that mulch processing will be conducted four times per year on a quarterly basis. The previous regulation just specified four times per year. The new and old regulations limit processing to occur during a two-week time period unless an extension is granted by the township.

Additionally, a mulching facility is now required to inform the zoning official at least 48 hours before processing mulch, as well as when it will begin and end. Lastly, mulch piles must be turned on a regular basis to protect against spontaneous combustion during the same timeframe to process mulch, unless there is an “extraordinary circumstance.” The latter two regulations are new additions to town code.

“Just wondering if there could be a different avenue or resolution to an industry that basically when you look it up it says it’s a conservation of soil moisture and improving fertility and health of soils and when you go on your website … it seems you guys are for recycling and better health,” West said. “I’m a little aggravated because you guys are trying to stop all manufacturing of mulch in a booming development of all these housing that you’re building that needs mulch.”

Defending the new regulations, Council President Stephen Dalina said the changes were necessary after residents complained to elected officials and employees.

“This was brought to us over the last two years by many residents regarding the over extension of the mulching process,” Dalina said, adding that it creates “… noise, smells, sounds throughout many, many areas of the town, [and] especially regarding hours of operation.”

Mulch is created from processing of tree debris, yard trimmings and other materials that is used on soil to prevent erosion and weed growth. It is known to create loud noises, though depending on the size of the machine, and an odor. Since it made from trees debris and other flammable materials in certain conditions, such as dry weather, it can spontaneously combust if not properly monitored.

“To me mulch smells like country. … I don’t like listening to the landscaper mowing my grass every Saturday morning, but there’s no ordinance on that,” West said. “We work hard. I’m just asking you to work with us, please.”