Compost plant may lose some waste from Seattle

EVERETT — A year from now, one particular stream of waste that flows into the Cedar Grove Composting plant in Everett could be headed elsewhere.

Those lawn clippings, apple cores and banana peels could be sent to another composting plant in Snohomish County: Lenz Earthworks near Stanwood.

The Cedar Grove plant on Smith Island — the focus of many odor complaints over the past five years — could stop receiving waste from the city of Seattle as soon as April 1, 2014.

Cedar Grove takes yard and food waste from haulers around Snohomish and King counties and then grinds it, cures it and sells it for use in gardens and farms.

Cedar Grove officials have decided not to renew their contract with Seattle, which expires next March 31, said Timothy Croll, solid waste director for the city.

The change would cut the waste stream coming through the plant by about 11 percent. Following several years of growth for the Everett operation, the reduction would accelerate what has been a downward trend in the volume at the plant since 2010.

A Cedar Grove official declined to comment on why the company decided not to bid on the upcoming Seattle contract, expected to run six to 10 years, Croll said. The city of Seattle paid Cedar Grove $2.8 million last year to take its compostable garbage, he said.

Seattle is working on plans to send 40 percent of its waste to Stanwood and 60 percent to a possible new composting plant near Ellensburg or Cle Elum, Croll said.

The 60 percent switch from Cedar Grove to the new plant is dependent on the plant being built. If it doesn’t, that waste would stay with Cedar Grove, Croll said.

Cedar Grove runs a plant in Maple Valley in King County in addition to the Everett operation. Both plants have been singled out in odor complaints by neighbors and hit with fines by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Four lawsuits have been filed against the company by neighbors in recent months.

The Everett plant opened in 2004. Last year, Seattle sent 90,000 tons of waste to Cedar Grove — 16 percent to Everett, 84 percent to Maple Valley.

The change would mean 14,400 fewer tons going through the Everett plant per year. In 2012, the Everett plant processed more than 130,000 tons of waste — following a steady decline from a peak of about 195,000 tons in 2009, according to the company’s numbers.

Lenz Earthworks is a family-owned business that began in 1976, said Jason Lenz, company vice president and general manager.

In addition to composting food waste, Lenz makes topsoil from farm waste; crushes and recycles rock and concrete, and screens sand and gravel, Lenz said.

The plant is on 150 acres east of Stanwood near Highway 532. The company began composting food waste in 2008, Lenz said. The operation accepted 45,000 tons of food waste — including overflow from Cedar Grove — last year, he said.

The Seattle contract would bring in 36,000 tons per year, but the company would cut back from other sources to keep its total at 45,000 tons, Lenz said.

“There’s really a net zero,” he said.

Although it couldn’t immediately be verified, Lenz said his Stanwood company does not get odor complaints.

“The Lenz composting process includes a multitude of safeguards to ensure that organics are properly handled, mixed and treated,” he said in an email.

Meanwhile, the Cle Elum composting project has links to a company partly owned by the family of Cedar Grove boss Steve Banchero, according to a business partner.

Jim Rivard of PacifiClean Environmental of Washington, based in Spokane, said his company is working with a firm called Organic Soil Solutions, owned by the Banchero Malshuk Family Trust of Seattle, on the project.

Neighbors fought the Cle Elum plan and the partnership asked that its application be put on hold while it looks for a new site, Rivard said.

If the plant can’t be built by next March, Seattle’s contract with Cedar Grove would extend another year, Croll said. If the plant falls through altogether, the waste that would have gone to Cle Elum would continue to go to Cedar Grove.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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