Fed up with odor complaints and “Band-Aids” they say don’t work, Spokane City Council members voted Monday to shut down the $2 million regional composting plant.
“The fact is: It’s time to face up to this thing,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty minutes before the 4-2 vote to close the 2-year-old plant near Colbert. “I’m for shutting this thing down.”
“We can’t ask (neighbors) to go through another year like this,” said Councilwoman Bev Numbers.
Councilmen Joel Crosby and Chris Anderson dissented, saying they don’t want to see an end to the city-county composting program. Councilman Mike Brewer was absent.
Because the plant is operated jointly by the city and county, county commissioners also must agree to the council’s action.
At commissioners’ urging last week, the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority board agreed to order air quality cops to sniff air near the plant daily for a month and report results to neighbors. They asked that the city-owned plant be fined repeatedly if it stinks.
If commissioners approve the council’s closure plan, the plant would be closed immediately. It could open again Oct. 1 - but only to accept fall leaves that could be ground for use as fertilizer on regional farmland.
No more composting would take place at the plant.
Council members also directed Phil Williams, the city’s regional solid waste director, to negotiate an end to the contract with O.M. Scott and Sons, the Ohio company that manages the compost plant.
Williams was somewhat confused by the council’s action.
“I don’t know what happened in there,” he said. “I’m a little confused right now. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”
Williams said he wasn’t sure who would run the grinding operation or how the contract might be settled.
“If we try to negotiate an agreement with Scott, that usually means money,” Williams said.
The council’s action came after an earlier motion to apply an organic solvent to the compost field failed.
The solvent, called “OdorGone,” promises to mask the smell of “diaper pail and hospital odors, cigarette smoke, fish, mildew…”
Williams told the council that a compost plant near King County recently tried misting its fields with the solvent, successfully eliminating odors.
Installing a misting system along the Spokane plant’s eastern rim would cost at least $40,000, Williams said. The solvent would cost about $25,000 a year.
Neighbors of Spokane’s compost plant said they were tired of new ideas aimed at making the plant work. So far, they said, they’d seen fans, trees and expensive equipment fail to eliminate odors.
“I think you’re grasping for straws,” said Mike Barcello. “You’re looking for any avenue you can cling to.”
More than a month ago, the council put the compost plant on notice that another air quality violation would signal the plant’s closure.
SCAPCA cited the compost plant over the Memorial Day weekend for noxious odors. The agency fined Spokane’s regional garbage authority $250.
The plant hasn’t been cited by air quality cops since, but residents never stopped complaining about the plant’s odors.
The council’s action still didn’t appease neighbors, who say they can’t trust the city to stick with it.
“You’re looking at a very unhappy woman,” said Delfina Rutledge.