Leak blamed for maggot infestation

Thousands of maggots lay scattered across the loading dock of Downing Student Union on Wednesday, October 02, 2013.

Jackson French

WKU’s new environmentally friendly food waste disposal system is being put on hold, while a new food waste container is made after the appearance of maggots on the Downing Student Union loading docks on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said Fresh Food Company’s food waste is stored in a sealed container on the DSU loading docks before it is taken to Baker Arboretum, where it is turned into compost.

She said some of the food waste spilled out of the container, onto the loading docks, causing the maggot infestation.

Ryan-Downing said this is the first year Fresh Food has used the new composting system, which turns food waste into compost rather than sending it to a landfill. She said difficulties were anticipated from the beginning.

“We absolutely expected to have some issues that we would have to work through,” she said. “This is a pilot program. We’ve never done anything like this.

“When we talked to other universities, they were very honest with us and said that, you know, this is not easy. It doesn’t come without its challenges.”

Dan Chaney, project manager for the DSU renovation, said there was a leak in the container, adding that one of the corners wasn’t properly sealed.

“Some of the food waste came out as it was being loaded and then they put it (the container) back down in the same spot, and so it was covered up, and then by the time we see the maggots, we figured out there was some waste underneath,” he said.

Chaney said maggots are not used in the composting process that takes place on campus.

He said the faulty container has been taken away and Scott Waste has been hired to build a new one, which will be installed some time this week.

“We’re having a new one constructed that’s going to be more tightly sealed and intended for this purpose, and it should alleviate the problem for good,” he said.

Chaney said after the infestation was discovered, the maggots were removed, the source of the insects taken away and the loading docks cleaned without issue.

Ryan-Downing said the new waste disposal system was immediately put on hold as soon as the maggots were discovered, adding that Fresh’s food waste is once again being taken to a landfill while the new container is being constructed.

“We’re making all kinds of adjustments, which we completely anticipated when we started this,” Ryan Downing said.

She said implementing the new waste disposal system has been a learning process, adding that the composting will resume once the new container is installed.

She said the system will operate the way it did before, though the frequency with which the waste is taken away and the system cleaned may be subject to change.

“We want to make sure everything’s right before we start again, so if that means that the food waste has to go to the landfill for another week or two, then so be it,” she said.