Tamara Thomas is not afraid to get down and dirty helping clients solve earthy problems. She owns Terre-Source, a one-woman consulting firm in Mt. Vernon that specializes in composting.

Her clients include North Mason Fiber Company in Belfair, area governments in King and Snohomish counties, and Washington State University.

Thomas’s interest in composting dates back to the 1980s, when a Master Composter friend gave her a home composting system for her birthday. “I’ve been a home composter ever since, ” she says.

While pursuing a master’s degree (’02 Soil Chem.) at WSU, she worked with professor of crop and soil sciences Dave Bezdicek, who remembers her as “one of our best students.”

Her extensive knowledge of facility design and layout enables her to assist clients in obtaining solid waste handling permits issued by the county health department. “She’s uniquely qualified to work in the field, not only from a process standpoint, but also in designing facilities,” Bezdicek says.

“At WSU, she is helping solve problems, including long-range planning for expansion and making room on the sites to use a number of different technologies,” says WSU compost facility manager Rick Finch. The facility processes all the University’s animal and food wastes, potting soil from the many greenhouses, and, until recently, ash from the old coal heating plant. After 12 to 14 weeks, some of the processed compost product is sold to nurseries and garden stores. Finch estimates that the facility saves the University more than $1.1 million annually in transport and landfill fees by recycling its own waste, in addition to income gained through selling the compost.

For 16 years, Thomas was employed by the engineering firm CH2M Hill, primarily in Bellevue, with stints in the Portland and Anchorage offices. At a Super Fund site at Kellogg, Idaho, she was involved in remediation work-removing metals such as zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and antimony from the soil-and performed soil investigations to locate heavy metal concentrations that required clean-up. She also wrote quality assurance, laboratory, and health and safety plans required at the site.

Thomas is equally at home running a front-loader or teaching workshops on regulatory requirements for composting facilities.

After running her own business for nearly three years now, she’s contemplating expanding the company. Or, if the opportunity presents itself, she “might try joining up with someone else.”

Either way, she says, “I really enjoy establishing relationships with my clients and helping them with their problems of compliance and design.”