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Compost Testing

Compost testing is important for characterizing the beneficial physical and chemical properties of a compost, as well as, for identifying potential problems with compost use.

The laboratory employs testing procedures from the U.S. Compost Council’s Test Methods for the Examination of Composting and Composts.

Basic Compost Tests

These tests include analyses for percent solids, organic matter, soluble salts, and carbon:nitrogen ratio. Compost Tests 1B and 1C include additional tests for nutrients. Test 1A is recommended as an initial test for feedstocks to help determine appropriate mixing ratios. This test may also be used as a basic test for finished compost although nutrient testing (Compost Tests 1B or 1C) on finished composts is recommended.

Service Fees

ServiceIncludes the following:Fee
Compost Test 1A Percent solids, organic matter, pH, soluble salts, total nitrogen, total carbon, Carbon:Nitrogen ratio $40.00
Compost Test 1B Compost Test 1A plus ammonium nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium $55.00
Compost Test 1C Compost Test 1A plus ammonium nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, copper, iron, sulfur and zinc $75.00

Sample size required for Compost Tests 1A, 1B, or 1C: approximately 1 quart.

Basic Compost Tests Plus Pollutants

These tests are recommended for feedstocks and finished composts that may contain metals and other pollutants. Compost Test 2A includes all analyses listed under Compost Test 1C (above) plus the EPA 503 pollutants (arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc). Compost Test 2B includes an additional test for PCBs and satisfies the requirements of DEP Chapter 271, General Permit, Sewage Sludge Quality Test.

Service Fees

ServiceIncludes the following:Fee
Compost Test 2A Percent solids, organic matter, pH, soluble salts, total nitrogen, total carbon, carbon:nitrogen ratio, ammonium nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, iron, manganese, sodium, sulfur, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, molybdenum, mercury, nickel, selenium, and zinc $270.00
Compost Test 2B Compost Test 2A plus PCBs $350.00

Sample size required for Compost Tests 2A or 2B: approximately 1 quart.

Tests for U.S. Compost Council STA Program

These tests provide the analyses required for compost producers involved with the U.S. Compost Council’s Seal of Testing Approval (STA) Program.

Service Fees

ServiceIncludes the following:FeeSpecial Instructions
Compost Test 3A Percent solids, organic matter, pH, soluble salts, total nitrogen, total carbon, carbon:nitrogen ratio, ammonium-nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium calcium, magnesium, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, zinc, respirometry test, bioassay, particle size (< 9.5 mm), and fecal coliform $350.00 Sample size required: approximately 2 quarts. Samples submitted for Compost Test 3A with fecal coliform should be shipped on ice by overnight mail and received by the laboratory no later than Thursday, 11:30 AM of a given week.
Compost Test 3A - no fecal coliform Compost Test 3A but fecal coliform not included $340.00 Sample size required: approximately 2 quarts. Note: sample does not need to be shipped on ice.
Compost Test 3B Compost Test 3A without EPA 503 pollutants (arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium and zinc) and without fecal coliform $200.00 Sample size required: approximately 2 quarts.

Optional and Individual Analyses

Service Fees

ServiceIncludes the following:FeeSpecial Instructions
Bulk Density If a bulk density test is requested, analyses will be reported on a volume basis (lb/yd³) in addition to a weight basis. $12.00 Sample size required: 2 quarts.
Particle Size Provides aggregate size classification of compost using 50mm (2-in), 25mm (1 in.), 15mm (5/8 in), 9.5mm (3/8 in) and 4mm (1/8 in) sieves $45.00 Sample size required: 1 quart.
Respirometry (CO2 Evolution) Test Evaluates the relative stability (biological activity) of a compost based on a 4-day measurement of CO2 evolved during Compost incubation. $100.00 Sample size required: 1 pint.
Bioassay Screens for the presence of phytotoxins in compost based on seedling emergence and growth of cucumber in compost/vermiculite mix relative to control. $75.00 Sample size required: 1 quart.
Nitrate Nitrogen   $15.00  
Calcium Carbonate Equivalence (CCE) includes percent solids $25.00  
Fecal Coliform (if added on to one of the above test packages) $35.00 Sample size required: 1 pint.
Fecal Coliform Requested individually (includes percent solids) $47.00 Sample size required: 1 pint.
Faxing Report cost per page $1.00  

Submitting Your Sample

Free sample mailers and submission forms are available from the laboratory or from the county offices of the Penn State Extension. Alternatively, you may submit your compost sample in your own container. Sample size required is listed with each test. Please submit payment with your sample with checks or money order made payable to The Pennsylvania State University or fill out the credit card authorization form.

The sample you collect for analysis must be representative of the entire material being analyzed. Piles of compost or feedstock often vary from place to place in the pile or windrow.

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