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North Plains may pull compost plant support

Smelly processing facility handles Portland's food waste


The North Plains City Council is on the verge of pulling its support for extending the food processing permit at Nature’s Needs, the large composting plant just outside the city limits.

On Nov. 17 the council is scheduled to vote on a resolution against the Washington County Commission extending the permit. The commission is scheduled to vote on extending the permit the next day, Dec. 18.

The permit approved by the commission is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The council had previously recommended that the permit be extended until September 2013. The extension was intended to allow Recology, the company that owns Nature’s Needs, to prove that it could control the odors that have sparked protests from city residents.

But the council indicated it was willing to change its position after a Nov. 3 meeting where dozens of residents complained the odors were continuing and ruining the quality of their lives. The city received 176 odor complaints in October and 76 in November.

The commission had asked Recology officials to meet with North Plains officials and county staff to see if a compromise can be worked out. Ideas being discussed include setting an objective standard for offensive odors, hiring an independent monitor to track the odors, and developing an odor notification system.

Len Bergstein, a Portland consultant hired by Recology, says company officials hope to learn what conditions the commission wants to see in any new permit during the Dec. 18 meeting. He believes the commission may extend the existing permit into early 2013, then hold another vote on a longer extension if the company indicates it can comply with the conditions. Bergstein noted Recology had invested about $5 million in the plant at the direction of state and county officials.

Nature’s Needs receives much of its food waste mixed with yard debris from Portland’s year-old curbside composting program. Ironically, just a few days after the Dec. 3 North Plains City Council meeting, the Portland City Council received a report saying the curbside composting program had significantly reduced the amount of garbage going to landfills.