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Seattle OKs compost agreement

Daily Record

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a contract on Monday to send waste to Kittitas County with new stipulations to protect local residents and the environment.

The $4 million-a-year contract with Lenz Enterprises and PacifiClean LLC would send 40 percent of Seattle’s yard and food waste and municipal biosolids to a compost processing facility near Stanwood and 60 percent to an as-yet undetermined location in Kittitas County.


The Seattle Council delayed action on the contract last week after hearing concerns from Kittitas County residents.

Under revisions approved Monday, PacifiClean has agreed to select a site that is outside of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and doesn’t have a significant amount of timber. The spot will need to be away from waterways and areas designated as high or extreme fire hazard. The site will be surrounded by compatible industrial uses and a minimum of homes with “little or no downwind development,” adequate infrastructure for trucks and have a minimal impact on the view. The stipulations are included in the wording of the city’s ordinance.

Larry Condon of PacifiClean said the company abandoned a proposed site near Elk Heights after hearing concerns from neighbors, and is working with the Kittitas County Community Development Services Department to find a new site that doesn’t present the same level of environmental impact. PacifiClean won’t be disclosing information about a new site until it obtains contractual rights to the property, he said.

“It is our intent to locate a site that does not present the same level of environmental impact as did the Elk Heights site,” he said. “I can assure you that our alternative sites will not be located in the greenway.”


The city of Seattle’s compost contracts with Cedar Grove Composting Inc. are scheduled to expire March 31, 2014. The new contract, which would be in effect for at least six years, would begin on April 1, 2014.

Until the plant is built, the Seattle Council directed Seattle Public Utilities to provide quarterly written reports with information about the new composting site, permitting, public involvement and environmental efforts. The Council also added language to the agreement about how the new site would affect employees now hauling waste to the Cedar Grove composting facility.

Mike Withey, an attorney representing landowners near the Cedar Grove plant in Maple Valley and Marysville, encouraged the Council to act on a new composting site. Neighbors are grateful Cedar Grove decided not to renew its contract with the city because of the smell, he said.

Withey said he was concerned the new facility wouldn’t be permitted.

“We are asking the City Council that this process is done expeditiously and people monitor the situation to make sure it’s built and can handle these composting wastes,” he said.

Withey said 1,700 complaints have been brought by citizens against Cedar Grove and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has exacted more than $119,000 in penalties.

“And the stench continues,” he said. “My clients can’t have a barbecue, they can’t have a birthday party (outside), they cannot have the kind of quiet enjoyment we all expect when we buy homes in the Puget Sound area.”

A number of Kittitas County residents also showed up to testify Monday. Several said they appreciated the Council’s willingness to listen to their concerns.

Glen Erickson of Cle Elum said he was pleasantly surprised by the Council’s actions.

“When PacifiClean said they weren’t going to use the Elk Heights site, we were jubilant a little bit, but then we said, ‘how selfish of us. We don’t know where this is going,’” he said. “If this is going to be the same kind of trauma for others in our county that it has been for us, then we need to do something about it.”

Council member Tom Rasmussen said the agreement makes “a very clear statement that we don’t want waste that comes from Seattle to create problems in other communities that can’t be mitigated.”

Council member Sally Bradshaw said she hopes the discussion can kick off further conversation about Seattle’s waste and climate solutions over the next 10 to 20 years.

“I would like to see what we can do to reduce energy costs, reduce the use of landfills and make sure we are thinking about how we deal with our own garbage locally,” she said. “For the past 20 years, we’ve been sending it by trail and rail elsewhere.”

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