A New Composting Facility for Cedar Creek Corrections Center

By Julie Vanneste, Environmental Planner, Sustainability Coordinator for WDOC

In August, Cedar Creek Corrections Center started using its new composting facility, marking the latest addition to the Department’s lineup of five large onsite composting facilities that manage food and other organic wastes, including kitchen waste, tray scrapings from dining areas and landscaping wastes. In addition to these likely waste streams, Cedar Creek also plans to begin composting bio-solids from the facility’s waste water treatment plant, much like Olympic Corrections Center has for the past 20 years.

These composting centers are a source of pride for the Department for Corrections and just one example of how sustainable operations are not only environmentally correct but fiscally responsible.

The composting facility at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, which is similar in capacity and design to Cedar Creek’s new facility, has saved Stafford Creek a calculated $30,000 per year. Their entire waste management system, which includes the compost unit, allows the facility an average annual savings of $200,000. Incorporating bio-solids with other organic wastes at Olympic Corrections Center saves tens of thousands of dollars each year through the ability to manage this waste stream onsite. Food and landscaping wastes adds still more savings.


An offender technician works with the in-vessel composting system at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing the burden on our landfills and creating meaningful employment by providing  skills and educational opportunities for  offenders are additional bonuses of the composting and sustainability programs.

Cedar Creek’s new facility consists of a rotating drum, manufactured in Lynden, WA; four aerated static pile bays; and storage of the finished product. The rotating drum can receive an average of 3,000 pounds of organic waste daily. Compost removed from the drum is moved to an aerated static pile for three addition weeks, where it is closely monitored for pathogen reduction and curing. Once finished, the compost is safe for general use as a soil amendment.

Although Cedar Creek is a much smaller campus, managing approximately three tons per month of food waste as opposed to Stafford Creek’s average of 20 tons per month, the smaller forest camp has big plans for its new drum.

Although the equipment and its accompanying 7,000 sq. ft. building are new to Cedar Creek, composting is not. Home of the Department’s first food waste compost facility, Cedar Creek  has successfully managed all of its food waste  in a back-yard -style composting operation  for the past 10 years, cobbled together from salvaged material including ecology blocks and an old roof moved from another part of the campus. Costing virtually nothing to construct, staff and offenders, under the leadership of then-superintendent Dan Pacholke, began a project that almost immediately saved the Department $1.3 million in impending upgrades to the facility’s waste water treatment plant. Those upgrades were ultimately determined unnecessary after the facility demonstrated that the use of their new composting system eliminated such significant burden on the waste water treatment plant that additional capacity could be handled without improvements to the facility.

Now some 10 years later, composting again appears to be the more sustainable and cost-effective answer. Costly and increasingly scarce options to truck and manage the facility’s bio-solids off-site have been costing the Department $3,000 a month. The Department’s existing contract with LOTT, the local municipal waste water treatment facility, will expire in December 2013 with no favorable option to renew.

With this looming problem in mind, the compost facility was designed to receive these bio-solids and compost them in conjunction with other sources of organic waste from the facility and eventually with food waste from the Capital Campus in Olympia.

Although still awaiting regulatory approval of their of bio-solids permit from the Department of Ecology, there is goodwill and high hopes for this project from stakeholders, regulators, and potential partners alike. While there is no projected date for approval of the permit due to staff shortages at the Department of Ecology, DOC is working with Thurston County’s Solid Waste Program to secure approval for a solid waste permit with provision to accept bio-solids. If approved, Ecology may accept this county approval and thereby grant a provisional bio-solid permit while Ecology continues its permit review.  Meanwhile, Cedar Creek continues to process its food waste and plans the future use and partnerships of this badly needed regional resource.

Cedar Creek Corrections Center superintendent Doug Cole with the new compost barrel.

Superintendent Doug Cole and Project Manager Eric Heinitz with the rotating drum that begins the composting process at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.



  1. 2013′s Bumper Crop at Washington Corrections Center | Sustainability in Prisons Project

    […] well. We added fresh compost from our new composting center (photo of the center in a recent blog) to all of our flower beds, and that made everything flourish. The color and size of some of them […]

    Reply to this comment ↓
  2. The Wonders of In-Vessel Composting at Cedar Creek Corrections Center | Sustainability in Prisons Project

    […] Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) has had their new in-vessel composter operational, I have heard many great things about it. In early November, I had the chance to see the composter in action and be […]

    Reply to this comment ↓

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.