WINSLOW — A poultry vaccine manufacturer is moving ahead with plans for a composting facility with initial estimated construction costs of about $160,000.

Lohmann Animal Health, International, Inc, which is owned by Elanco Animal Health and runs the site off Route 137/ China Road in Winslow, says the facility should save the company money and will improve its waste efficiency.

The company is currently in the process of applying to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for approval of the facility.

Meanwhile, the company also applied mid-July for a permit to upgrade Building H at its Winslow site, which holds the main laboratory and research and development building. This project had an estimated cost of $2.67 million, according to the application for a town building permit.

The composting project began as a trial collaboration between the employees at the site on China Road in Winslow and the environmental department, according to Beth Hunter, associate consultant for communications at Indiana-based Elanco.

“As a company, we’re committed to operating responsibly and in reducing our environmental footprint,” Hunter said in an emailed statement. “We continue to look for cost-effective innovative solutions like the composting facility to help us further minimize our environmental impacts.”

The company expects composting to save money in operating costs, as well as provide a way to reuse discarded egg and bedding materials.

The facility would also help Elanco reach its goal to improve its waste efficiency by 20 percent, Hunter said.

The Winslow site has constructed a number of improvements over the past year in addition to the composting facility. This past spring the manufacturing company hired Fairfield-based Sheridan Construction Corporation to build six new poultry houses to support increases in the site’s productivity, though the company would not disclose just how much its production capacity had increased.

New pens cost $100,000 each, according to the application for a town of Winslow building permit.

Lohmann Animal Health, which sells many products in dozens of countries, employs more than 100 people at the Winslow site and has attributed its growth in recent years to tax-increment financing district created by town officials.

The Winslow facility has weathered near business-ending challenges in the past. When it called Maine Biological Laboratories, the facility’s former top executives were charged with business-related crimes related to bending federal regulations and the smuggling of a bird influenza virus from Saudi Arabia nearly two decades ago. Company sales nosedived and the business looked like it might fold.

Lohmann rebounded, though, with a new management team while investing millions into the Winslow plant for improved processing equipment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected and found no problems.

The company, though, came under scrutiny again in 2013 when The New York Times published a report on how Syria built its chemical weapons stockpile with the help of foreign companies, and cited Maine Biological Laboratories as “one of the best-known cases” of a U.S. company providing a precursor for chemical weapons by illegally shipping vaccines containing a flu-like avian disease virus a decade earlier.

The company, though, sent a statement saying that linking it to an incident in 2001 “with the use of poisonous gas … to kill people is totally misleading and categorically false.”

The Portland Press Herald later interviewed experts who said that the biological agents that had been exported to Syria could not have been used to create a biological weapon, contrary to what the Times has reported.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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