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Demonstration's over, time to end the stink


Two Views: Neighbors, composting firm look for way out of smelly problem

The problem with the Nature’s Needs plant in North Plains is not an argument about the merits of composting food waste. We as citizens of North Plains understand that composting instead of landfilling food waste is a positive direction.

However, for this to be a success in the long run, it cannot be mishandled and carelessly administered.

Residents of North Plains and the plant’s neighbors can’t imagine that the goal of composting food waste can be considered to be a success if a large and promising community is written off and sacrificed in the process. As Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski said at a meeting in December: “Why build more houses down there? Who would buy them”?

Indeed. No one will buy the existing ones, either.

For the goal of composting food waste to be a success, it will require real expertise and unbiased research and planning. That has not been the case up to this point. The whole operation was rushed into place without adequate research or oversight. It needs comprehensive statewide planning.

The Washington County commissioners have had this issue thrust upon them by Metro and find themselves ill-equipped to make decisions about it. They have no expertise in this field and have relied on their waste management staff and Recology for their information. Neither of these sources has been without their considerable biases.

In the process of Washington County officials attempting to figure this out, Recology has been very effective in using its well-connected consultants to influence elected officials. At this point, the commissioners seem inclined to give Recology another extension, its third, of the trial period.

There will be modifications, but the experts we have contacted have told us that it will still stink and very simply it should not have been located this close to a community. It will not work and should be moved.

These same experts, some with decades of experience, have told us that Recology has made about all of the improvements that can be made on an open-air aerobic system. They have informed us that there is nothing wrong with the process that Recology is using; it is just that the site is not viable for a composting operation.

We have determined that Metro has alternative locations for both the commercial food waste stream and the yard debris/residential food waste stream instead of the site at North Plains. So this is should no longer be an obstacle to stopping food waste composting at the North Plains site.

County commissioners seem loath to decide that Recology must stop composting food waste at this site. This is probably in part because of the improvements that Recology has made. We think that some of the “loss” can probably be written off Recology’s taxes, some of the improvements can be taken with the company, and the rest is part of the risk of doing business.

We ask the commissioners to extend the same degree of concern to the business owners in North Plains, some with multimillion dollar investments in the town and that are being damaged by the presence of this composting operation. We ask that the same concern be extended to property owners and residents who are losing value in their homes and the livability of their town.

We ask that Metro and the state become involved in a comprehensive study of this issue so that it can be a success in the future.

We ask the county commissioners to end this “demonstration project” and restore North Plains’ future.

Marilyn Schulz of North Plains is part of Stop the Stink, a committee opposing the processing of food waste at Recology Environmental Solutions’ plant.