Composter halted after apple maggot larvae discovered
A composting company that operates at Ovenell Farms in Quincy was forced to halt hauling unprocessed organic waste from Seattle on July 7 after inspectors discovered apple maggot larvae at the Quincy operation.
The state Department of Agriculture issued the suspension to PacifiClean, which had received a special permit to begin transporting covered containers of Seattle-area organic waste beginning June 30 to Ovenell Farms.
Inspectors discovered and confirmed the presence of apple maggot larvae in the waste less than a week after transportation began, Hector Castro, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said last week.
PacifiClean has begun designing and fabricating an enclosed building for the receiving and processing line areas, said Ryan Leong, general manager for PacifiClean. The company hopes to have that building completed by Sept. 30 and to begin hauling again in October, Leong said.
The enclosed building would allow Ovenell Farms to “process” the waste by grinding it before it’s taken outdoors and placed in mounded rows for composting. Heat generated during composting kills pests, officials have said.
“The facility has been scaled down. We’ve had to lay off folks. We’re not receiving any new feed stock at the moment,” Leong said.
Leong said an enclosed building was not originally built to process the material because PacifiClean was relying on the state Department of Agriculture for its guidance.
Most of Eastern Washington is free of apple maggot, a pest that bores into the fruit, turning it brown and mushy. The region’s pest-free status is a big advantage for fruit companies here, which face no restrictions on selling their fruit to foreign markets.
The maggot is present in Spokane and in most of Western Washington. A quarantine has been imposed on those areas and restrictions applied to prevent the maggot from spreading.
Transport of “unprocessed” organic waste from the quarantine areas into the pest-free areas is possible only with a special permit, Castro said.
State Department of Agriculture inspectors were present at PacifiClean’s point of dispatch in Seattle and at its composting facility in Quincy, Castro said. The department notified apple industry officials of the find.
“They were as concerned as we were,” Castro said. “We took action to suspend the transport because even the news that apple maggot was present could have ramifications for the (fruit) market. Significant economic harm could result from it.”
He added, “We’d been working on this since last year to provide an avenue for the compost industry to move green waste to processing facilities in Eastern Washington, but protect the apple industry, which is our primary objective.”
Other Eastern Washington companies, including Royal Organics of Royal City, transport Seattle green waste into pest-free areas without permits. These companies either process (grind) the waste from within the quarantine area before bringing it here or are in an area with low probability that orchards could become contaminated, Castro said.
The risk of apple maggot contamination from these companies was perceived to be lower than from PacifiClean, Castro said.
Along with building the enclosed facility at Ovenell, PacifiClean plans to reach out to local farmers to inform them of the company’s plans, Leong said.
“We’re committed to continuing to work with the farming community on this issue,” Leong said.
— By Christine Pratt, Wenatchee World
The QVPR also contributed to this story.