Neighbors wary of proposed equestrian recycling facility

Equestrian Recycling site.jpg
Site of the proposed equestrian recycling facility just west of the Turnpike, on Benoist Farms Road, in the West Palm Beach area. (WPEC)

In normal times, each winter thousands of equestrians and their animals converge on our area, pumping millions into the local economy. But, the horses also leave behind countless truckloads of waste from the stable stalls.

Backers of a proposed recycling facility aim to address the issue, but not all are on board.

“I fully understand the situation of the equestrian group," said Mary Healy, president of Breakers West homeowners association, concerned about the planned facility's location less than two miles from her community.

“Even on the warmest day, at some point during the day we get a lovely breeze,” said Healy. “It’s just going to be offensive to anybody who’s trying to get outside.”

“There is no odor,” counters Paul Cross, who developed the process to be used, and is one of those involved in the plant proposed for an industrial area just west of the Turnpike, on Benoist Farms Road.

“For me, that’s really important that it is as clean as it possibly can be, and we repurpose everything from the waste stream," Cross said, speaking with CBS12 News via Zoom.

He explained the entire operation will be indoors and on concrete, with the manure separated and super-heated, converted to a soil amendment, or compost.

“Immediately separated and made inert," said Cross. "The moment you make something inert, there is no smell.”

The stall shavings will also be heated and sterilized, becoming recycled horse barn bedding.

Three years ago a similar process was part of a project proposed for the farming area between Wellington and Belle Glade. But plans died after growers said the various elements of the project would keep them from being able to sell certain fresh vegetables grown nearby.

Palm Beach County Planning, Zoning and Building Department documents indicate when the horse stall recycling plant issue came up in the past, County staffers actually pointed to the current site on Benoist Farms Road as a preferred location for such a facility.

But despite assurances from the County officials and the developer, Healy and other neighbors remain skeptical.

“I’d much rather find it in a rural area, and say 'oh, okay, it’s okay out there, and it doesn’t have any odor,'” said Healy. “But to start here, how are we going to get rid of it, if it doesn’t work the way they say it is?”

The project was set to come before the Zoning Commission on October 1. But, hoping to address the concerns of neighboring communities, the developer's representatives have asked that the project coming before the zoning board in November instead.