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Cedar Grove odor issues persist, but no easy answers to control smell
EVERETT - In the hot summer months, neighbors say they can smell it a mile away.
They close their windows because they don’t want a whiff of what’s outside.
The Cedar Grove composting facility on Smith Island has long prompted complaints from neighbors about its facility, which processes tons of rotting compost each year.
Cedar Grove has racked up 12 Clean Air Act violations in the past five years at its Everett plant. The company received its latest two clean air violations at the Everett plant earlier this month, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) spokeswoman Joanne Todd said.
But no one seems to know what to do.
The City Council heard no definitive answers on how to fix the smell problems from the PSCAA’s director Craig Kenworthy last week, but council members raised questions on how Cedar Grove is being allowed to process this much compost.
Kenworthy was at the council meeting to explain PSCAA’s “e-noses” program, which are electronic odor sniffers placed at multiple station points in Marysville and north Everett to identify smells. The e-noses were partially paid for out of an earlier settlement with Cedar Grove over smell violations in King County.
The PSCAA will get a report on what the e-noses found at the end of the year, but the data can’t be used as conclusive evidence, Kenworthy said.
There are no easy answers on how to control the smell as local governments push for people to compost their food and recycle more of their yard waste, Kenworthy said.
Nationally, the composting industry increased from less than 1,200 facilities in 1988 to nearly 3,800 in 2000, a company report states. Cedar Grove opened its doors in 1989 in Maple Valley, and the Everett plant opened in 2004.
One possible change could come from the state Department of Ecology modifying its regulations, which could affect how the Snohomish Health District issues permits for the Everett site, Kenworthy said.
Quite simply, the city increased Cedar Grove’s allowed tonnage of compost before odor complaints were prevalent, city planning director Allan Giffen said last week.
While the number of violations is low, the number of complaints is staggering.
Kenworthy said the complaints rose sharply after Cedar Grove started taking in food scraps for compost.
In 2010, more than 800 complaints were lodged about smells thought to be coming from Cedar Grove, Nina Shapiro reported last year in the Seattle Weekly.
It is much harder to receive a violation because an inspector has to be at the exact location of the complaint and smell the same odor, Shapiro reported. When the wind shifts, the smell could easily move by the time the inspector arrives, she reported.
In Marysville, the smell is prolific. Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and leaders of the Tulalip Tribes delivered a letter to the city of Everett in 2011 asking for help.
Two class action lawsuits were filed this year against Cedar Grove’s facilities in Everett and Maple Valley over the smell.      
Two new violations for Cedar Grove last week “makes sense to me,” City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said last week. She said she has records of people e-mailing her complaints dating back to 2008.
Stonecipher lives on a small side street at the end of Grand Avenue. She said her husband, a doctor, can smell compost from his work in the high rises of Providence Regional Medical Center’s new tower in downtown Everett.
“When does this end?” Stonecipher said. The smell is affecting Everett residents’ quality of life, she said.
Kenworthy’s only effective answer is to fix the system that regulates facilities like Cedar Grove’s. In the meantime, he recommended people continue to file online complaints on the agency’s website,
“Let’s get this system fixed, so we don’t have more problems,” Kenworthy said.


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