General manager pushes for permit renewal, says it wont expand

by: CHRIS ONSTOTT - A public hearing on Grimm Fuel Companys composting facility invited unfavorable comparisons to Nature's News composting plant, pictured, which has struggled to reduce its odor emissions in North Plains.A Tualatin composting facility faced vocal opposition last week as the business sought to renew its solid waste disposal permit with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Grimm’s Fuel Company has run its compost site on Cipole Road since 1980, but during last week’s public hearing, DEQ representatives heard from several neighbors concerned by what they took to be the facility’s expansion plans, included in the permit.

For more information about how to submit public comment to the DEQ, click here

In response to Oct. 30’s public hearing, the DEQ announced Tuesday it would extend the public comment period to Nov. 20.

Grimm’s currently accepts Type 1 and Type 2 feedstocks, which include yard and garden waste, wood waste and vegetative food waste, as well as animal manure and bedding.

The new draft permit includes a preliminary application for Type 3 feedstocks, which includes meat and dairy waste as well as industrial post-consumer waste.

Nina DeConcini, northwest regional manager at the DEQ, explained composting facilities are required to reapply for permits, rather than renew them, due to revised composting rules updated in 2009.

Grimm’s Fuel general manager Jeff Grimm said his facility has no plans to expand, and the facility’s land-use permit forbids accepting commercial food waste, which was a common concern among residents.

“There is a whole bunch of stuff in the Type 3 (category), 99 percent of which we don’t care about,” he said. “We are never going to do animal mortalities or commercial waste.”

But it is prudent for Grimm’s to position itself to pursue a Type 3 permit, should the city of Tualatin ever decide to do curbside compost pickup, Grimm said. If the business STET not properly permitted to accept Type 3 compost, it would risk losing contracts to pick up yard debris, which currently accounts for 12 percent of Grimm’s compost volume.

“(Curbside) haulers estimate 5 to 8 percent of the volume in those curbside cans is food waste,” he said. “The rest is yard debris.”

He estimates such food waste would ultimately account for “6/10 of one percent” of total compost volume.

But community activist and Citizen Involvement Organization leader Jan Giunta is unconvinced. In the October CIO newsletter, Giunta warned residents of North Tualatin and the Pony Ridge neighborhood in particular that passing the permit as drafted would allow Grimm’s to expand and increase operations. Giunta used Nature’s Needs composting facility in North Plains as a cautionary tale: The composting facility has drawn odor complaints from both residents and Washington County commissioners.

“If Type 3 feedstocks are allowed, the residents and the businesses are anticipating increased noxious odor emissions, which will make it more difficult to sell their properties at market value,” Giunta said.

Grimm objected to much of Giunta’s letter, arguing that a Type 3 feedstock permit is in no way guaranteed. According to the draft permit, in order to begin accepting such waste, Grimm’s would have to obtain written approval from the DEQ, as well as a franchise agreement from Metro.

“There are a number of steps that would have to happen,” DeConcini agreed. “(Grimm’s) indicated they don’t intend to (pursue Type 3), at least immediately.”

But the odor issue persists, residents argue.

Joel McKaig, who has lived and worked in the area for about 15 years, claims such odors are disruptive to business at Funtime RV Inc. (18605 S.W. Pacific Drive), where he works.

He describes the smell from Grimm’s as similar to that of a dairy farm.

“It smells so bad that you gag, like right before you throw up,” he said. “We pick up our brand new trailers down the road about 30 miles, and after they’re exposed to this smell after a few days, they don’t smell like new trailers anymore, they smell like used trailers.”

The smell is worst on hot or rainy days, he said, and sometimes strikes customers as waste-holding tanks in need of emptying, he added.

Grimm’s uses the aerated static pile composting method, which involves operating a Caterpillar D9 tractor to turn compost piles.

“That has a tendency to give off odors,” Grimm agreed, “but that’s true of all composting sites.”

The DEQ has received numerous complaints about the facility, and is finalizing an updated, statewide nuisance odor strategy, which would respond to odor complaints by considering the frequency, duration and intensity of odors; the number of people impacted; the potential harm of the odors; and the emission source’s ability to prevent or avoid harm.

“It’s very difficult for us to deny a permit or close someone down if they are meeting the requirements of the permit,” DeConcini said, “which doesn’t mean there aren’t odors.”

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