S&H reps seek support of composting plan
Residents remain skeptical of facilitys safety despite changes to proposal
When representatives from S&H Logging arrived at Rolling Hills Community Church May 15 for yet another public meeting regarding their proposed facility, they carried a few new details to augment the same basic message for concerned citizens.
We have listened to you.
We dont want to be the enemy.
Were just developing our land.
Will Gehr, S&H regulator and compliance director, presented the updated plan to acquire a type 1 Department of Environmental Quality permit, which restricts composting operations to yard debris only, as opposed to the type 2 permit that allows for incidental manure to be mixed in at times. He carefully explained the procedure S&H would use to quell any dust or odors coming from the facility, and colleague David Miller said he was planning to move his own family to the area as soon as possible.
What Gehr and Miller couldnt provide, though, was exactly what residents like Tracie Tolbert continue to search for: a promise that the facility wouldnt hurt the communitys health, businesses or property values.
They cant guarantee me that my property value wont go down, said Tolbert, who lives directly across from where the facility would be located on Borland Road. Theyre not going to guarantee me that my children arent going to get sick, that Im not going to get sick, that my children arent going to get sick at school.
The S&H facility, planned at 3036 SW Borland Road in the Stafford triangle, would sit near two West Linn schools. It would process yard debris into compost, which could then be used in products sold at S&Hs retail site located across the street. It would not compost food waste such as meat scraps or other animal products.
While the county approved the project in February, S&H still must obtain additional permits from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Gehr acknowledged during his presentation that Stafford is not an industrial area, and ideally there would be a buffer of at least 2,000 feet between the composting facility and other properties like schools and homes as opposed to the 400 feet between the northernmost area of the facility and Athey Creek Middle Schools soccer field.
If it were up to S&H, Gehr said, the facility would have remained in its current Clackamas location, but Clackamas County had other ideas and declined to extend its lease.
Yet Gehr also stressed that plans had changed since a DEQ hearing on April 16. The facility would compost only yard debris now no food waste or manure at all using proven methods to keep both odors and dust at a minimum.
Residents were skeptical of the latter claim.
Its hard for me to stand here and believe what youre telling us, said one woman, who wished not to be named. Its not the smell, its what its carrying. Ten percent of those kids have asthma; we know that statistically. Youre going to be impacting them.
If you were a good neighbor, you wouldnt build it.
Gehr countered that what were doing is not so new that its experimental, and said after the meeting hes particularly confident about reducing the health risks associated with dust.
Its the dust that can affect peoples health, and thats easier to mitigate, Gehr said. Our composting methods will virtually guarantee that there wont be dust.
S&H representatives recently met with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board has openly opposed the facilitys construction, but Gehr said the meeting was productive.
The objective was really to get face-to-face and address their concerns squarely, Gehr said. What I can say is both sides felt that were establishing a better path for communication.
Debate surrounding the facility has also spread to Salem, where Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, is pushing a bill amendment that would prohibit the construction of any compost disposal site within 1,500 feet of a school.
There are no further DEQ meetings scheduled at this time. If DEQ decides to draft a permit for the facility, a public hearing would follow within 30 days. Gehr estimated the next DEQ public gathering will take place in two or three months.Add a comment