Ann Overton Ann Overton 434-293-1912
Marshall M. Herman 804-692-2134
Jan. 9, 2015
NEW ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TOOL HELPS DISPOSE OF ROADKILL
VDOT opening animal-carcass composting facilities around Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia ranks among the top five states in the nation for deer-vehicle collisions – which means the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) must dispose of the thousands of carcasses littering state-maintained roads and adjacent rights of way following such a crash.
VDOT now has a new environmentally friendly tool – animal carcass composting – to help reduce some of the thousands of “deer mortalities” it has to haul away.
VDOT is deploying forced-air composting facilities at several locations around the state. The system uses forced air to create an environment where microbes can help break down the deer and other small animal carcasses, layered in sawdust, into compost. VDOT will use resulting byproduct, compost, on vegetation along state roads and at its facilities. Average cost of these composting facilities is about $140,000 each.
For several years, VDOT’s research division, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR), has analyzed ways to compost deer carcasses to provide effective options that comply with environmental regulations. VCTIR now is evaluating how composting can help reduce some of the costs associated with transporting roadkill to offsite disposal sites.
“The composting process we’re employing uses a closed system to recycle the liquid, or leachate, from the layers of carcasses and sawdust back into the vessels to continue the microbial activity, so no odors can escape,” said VCTIR’s Jimmy White, who is overseeing the siting of the facilities for VDOT. “Virginia was the first state to pilot these composting technologies, which could save the agency time and money in labor, landfill fees and transportation costs, depending on the location. Removing and properly disposing of these carcasses also will make our roads safer.”
VDOT initially piloted similar vessel composting facilities at the Bethel area headquarters (AHQ) in Lynchburg District, Hanging Rock AHQ in Salem District and Fishersville AHQ in Staunton District.
New VDOT composting facilities have opened Windsor AHQ in Hampton Roads District and in New Kent County in Richmond District. VDOT plans further composting facilities at Hanging Rock AHQ and at Timberlake AHQ in Lynchburg District, with more expected in the future.
VDOT spends more than $4 million per year removing deer carcasses from Virginia roads. Its primary disposal methods have included delivering the carcasses to landfills or burying them on the side of the road.
Both methods have disadvantages: long travel distances to landfills, increasing landfill restrictions and a general lack of viable burial areas because of development, underground utilities and environmental regulations. Because of the growing volume and costs, VDOT maintenance facilities needed additional carcass-management strategies that are practical, environmentally compliant and cost effective.
For the past several years, VDOT’s research division has been evaluating various methods of composting deer carcasses for several years to provide effective options that comply with environmental regulations. VDOT can then use resulting byproduct, compost, along state roads and at its facilities. The costs for facility can be recouped in about four to five years.
The initial idea of animal composting came from the food-production industry. Large farms use a similar process to compost their animals after manufacturing. VCTIR published its first research report on “mortality composting” in 2010.
For more information into VDOT’s research into carcass composting, please see these VCTIR reports:
- “An Assessment of the Animal Carcass Disposal Practices of the Virginia Department of Transportation and Guidance for the Selection of Alternative Carcass Management Options,” http://vtrc.virginiadot.org/PUBDetails.aspx?Id=298110
- “Composting Animal Carcasses Removed from Roads: An Analysis of Pathogen Destruction and Leachate Constituents in Deer Mortality Static Windrow Composting,” http://vtrc.virginiadot.org/PUBDetails.aspx?Id=298168
- “Composting Animal Mortality Removed From Roads: A Pilot Study of Rotary Drum and Forced Aeration Compost Vessels,” http://vtrc.virginiadot.org/PUBDetails.aspx?Id=298182
- Fact sheet on VDOT’s composting research: http://www.virginiadot.org/news/resources/Statewide/Managing_deer-carcass_disposal_at_VDOT_090613.pdf
Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.