Thursday, December 8, 2016

PRNC hears less-rosy projections about Republic's compost-odor problems

POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - The Point Richmond Neighborhood Council learned Wednesday night that Contra Costa County Health officials aren't sure the noxious odors emanating from Republic Services composting will be gone as quickly as promised by the company.

Tuesday night a Republic spokesman said that by this Saturday - or Monday at the latest - a 22,000 cubic yard pile of compost-gone-sour would be hauled off to a Republic-owned landfill in Pittsburgh and buried.

But Joe Doser, a supervising environmental health specialist with the county said that estimate was overly optimistic.

"More likely it will be gone in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Joe Doser, Contra Costa County
environmental health specialist

Doser's comments came in a presentation made by officials from the county, Bay Area Air Quality Management and the City of Richmond. They talked about the ongoing odors from Republic wafting over the Point, often making people feel nauseous and sometimes prompting other symptoms like sore throats and headaches.

The decomposing material being trucked out is so foul, Doser said, it is being covered with regular garbage at Republic's Pittsburgh facility to cover up the smell.

Republic Services officials said they had a conflict and couldn't be at the PRNC meeting, opting instead to hold the Tuesday community presentation at Kaleidoscope Coffee.

In his PRNC presentation, Doser walked the council and about 30 Point Richmond-area residents through the history of the most recent odor problems from the composting operation at Republic's Parr Road facility.

In July, when the county inspected the composting operation, Doser said they discovered Republic had amassed more than 360,000 cubic yards of composting material - more than 10 times the company's permitted volume of 32,000 cubic yards.

Since then the county has inspected regularly, given Republic several cease and desist orders and is working with the company to clean up its composting operation. In an October visit, inspectors found significant quantities of plastic in the green waste being delivered to the Republic site for composting.

"We don't believe it (the odor) represents a health threat," Doser said. But he admitted some the smells were likely coming from several acidic compounds formed in the composting process.

City of Richmond code enforcement officer Nicole Ewing said the city was late in getting involved, mostly because Point residents were only calling to complain to Bay Area air quality officials - or Republic itself. But since the city joined efforts to clear the air, she said the city has sent out nuisance notices. And she is following up on complaints almost daily.

Ewing urged people to also alert the city anytime there is an odor problem.

Several members of the audience asked about the legal process for revoking Republic's permit to operate if the problem continues.

The officials said that process would likely involve the city planning commission, whatever local enforcement agencies hold the power to revoke and quite possibly the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.
Written by Michael J. Fitzgerald