Emu Composting closes amid bankruptcy

Ron Phillips of Emu Composting Topsoil, in 2009. Court records state Phillips filed for bankruptcy in October, and closed the business in February.                         - File photo
Ron Phillips of Emu Composting Topsoil, in 2009. Court records state Phillips filed for bankruptcy in October, and closed the business in February.
— image credit: File photo

KINGSTON — Emu Composting Topsoil, the self-proclaimed only compost manufacturer in Kitsap County, closed its doors Feb. 11, according to the company's Facebook page.

Many "fans" on Facebook expressed their sympathy that the business closed."You guys will be missed," said one woman. "God speed to your next blessing."

Gloria and Ron Phillips, owners of Emu Composting, did not return calls by deadline.

Jan Brower, head of garbage and hazardous substances for Kitsap Public Health District, said she was contacted by Emu that they were closing the facility because of bankruptcy.

Ron Phillips filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2012, according to the Western District of Washington Bankruptcy Court. Brower said the Phillips told her they submitted a plan to continue to operate through the bankruptcy period, but was rejected by the court.

Brower said she and Emu staff had been working on "compliance issues" in the last few years. She said some of the operational issues included not meeting proper temperatures for the compost product. Some issues were progressing, some were still ongoing, Brower said.

Emu had contracts with Bainbridge Island Disposal to pick up residential yard waste, and New Day Recycling to pick up food waste from commercial businesses. Bainbridge Island Disposal owner Heather Church said they will now contract with North Mason Fiber. She said she did not want to comment on the situation, but said Emu owners were "really nice people."

Emu accepted bark, gravel, rock, rainforest compost, and yard waste including brush, branches, lumber and stumps, according to their Facebook page.

Ron Phillips said in a Herald story from 2009 that Emu’s Kingston site had the ability to process 200,000 tons of green waste each year. In 2009, the site turned 259.66 tons of material into compost, not close to their capacity of some 10,000-12,000 tons each month. He alluded he did not receive business support from the county.

While the County Board of Commissioners awarded Emu with their annual Excellence in Recycling Award in 2009, Phillips said the county was using North Mason Fiber for their composting needs.

Pat Campbell, senior program manager of the Solid Waste Division in Kitsap’s Department of Public Works, said at the time they were not contracting with any company.

In the last few years, Emu had a contract with the Wastewater Treatment Division, senior program manager Stella Vakarcs said Thursday, to haul biosolids to Emu. Vakarcs said they stopped bringing biosolids last spring, when Emu was facing a "backlog" of material and was ordered by the Department of Health and the Department of Ecology to finish what was on-site before taking more biosolids. Vakarcs said her division also takes biosolids to Fire Mountain Farms in Lewis County.

Emu was issued a permit for its 13.66-acre organic composting facility on Ecology Road in 2007. Brower said she thought they had been running a smaller yard waste disposal business on Port Gamble Road for about 20 years prior to opening Emu Composting.

After announcing their closure, Gloria Phillips wrote on Emu's Facebook wall," Much appreciation to..all our customers....for your years of dedicated support."

Brower said the Emu property is now owned American West Bank, but the county tax records have not been updated to reflect the change in ownership.


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