By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — A family business with a history of odor complaints is applying for a permit to mix solids left over from sewage treatment with soil, apparently to make fertilizer.
Tenelco has applied for a permit from the city of Lake Stevens for the soil operation. A similar business might have operated on the site in the past without permission from the city, according to city officials.
Dave Eldredge operates Evergreen Sanitation on the 22-acre site at 2910 and 3024 Old Hartford Road. This operation — separate from the soils mixing business — installs and pumps out septic systems and grease traps, and pumps out portable toilets. This business also has been operating without a permit, according to city officials.
Dave Eldredge said in a brief phone interview that his father’s wife*, Catherine Eldredge, heads up Tenelco.
The site is located in the northeastern part of Lake Stevens, across Old Hartford Road from the Centennial Trail. A neighborhood abuts the western* side of the property.
A “for sale” sign is attached to the fence in front of the business. The entire parcel, including the buildings, is for sale for $3.8 million, according to the Workman Real Estate Service website. The site is owned by Eldredge Industrial LLC, according to Snohomish County property records.
Dave Eldredge did not respond to a list of email questions sent Monday — including an inquiry about why the property is up for sale while the family is trying to obtain business permits.
Neighbors of the site say the businesses generate odor, noise and dust.
The question often is, “Can we open our window today?” said Bryan Alldredge, who lives near the business site.
“The odors are just awful. It’s raw sewage,” said Judy Bales, whose home abuts the business property. “It’s really disgusting, we have to shut our windows. We can’t entertain in the summer. It’s a nauseating stench.”
Tenelco has been cited 10 times for offensive odors in recent years by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, said Laurie Halvorson, compliance officer for the Seattle-based agency. She did not say whether the company had been fined for the violations.
The family must have a plan for odor control to receive the permit for the soil mixing, Lake Stevens planning director Becky Ableman said.
Some type of sewage byproduct or sludge from a treatment plant likely would be used for the soil mixing, though Tenelco has not specifically said where it would come from, Ableman said. The company would not be able to use raw sewage from the sanitation business, she said.
Noise from Evergreen Sanitation also has been a problem for neighbors, Bales said.
“It’s really noisy all the time,” she said. “It’s a constant drill in my head. We were hearing trucks at 3 in the morning last summer.”
Dave Eldredge said in a brief email that Evergreen Sanitation sometimes must operate around the clock, seven days a week.
“Normally we shut down by 6 p.m., but if we get an emergency call, from say a municipality with a sewer line break, we fire up the trucks and go to protect public health and the environment,” he said. “Sewer lines and pumps don’t care if it’s 2 a.m., they break when they break.”
Ableman said the businesses will have to comply with city noise rules to receive the permit, but she couldn’t say how that would affect the current decibel level coming from the business.
Tenelco was issued a biosolids permit in 2010 by the state Department of Ecology, even though it wasn’t operating in Lake Stevens at the time, said Peter Christiansen, section manager for waste resources for the department. The permit is good for five years, he said.
The family has run several businesses on the Lake Stevens site since about 1990, according to the city, under different names — Evergreen Sanitation, Series Seven, Evergreen On-site and Eldredge Industrial.
All have operated without city permits, Ableman said.
Tenelco applied for a permit from the city in 2004 but did not follow through, Ableman said. Still, there was evidence of grading and soil moving on the site from 2004 to 2007, according to a 2009 letter from the city to Eldredge Industrial.
“We have been working with them since I’ve been here (since 2006) to get them into compliance and we have made progress,” Ableman said.
Evergreen Sanitation installed an odor control system in 2010, she said.
“It has had some success. We do think there is another phase of that system that needs to be installed.”
Ableman said she doesn’t know why the businesses were allowed to operate without permits before 2006.
“There have been a number of things occur on the site and we have limited documentation on what that was,” she said.
City staff visited the site in early February and found several other problems, according to a city letter to Tenelco dated March 7. The city found piles of garbage and debris, including car parts and hulk vehicles, along with algae blooms in standing water near a ditch that drains off of the property.
The ditch runs into Catherine Creek, which empties into Lake Stevens and Little Pilchuck Creek.
The city will need more information about the potential effect on the water in the creeks before deciding whether to approve the permit, Ableman said. Tenelco will have to improve drainage control on the site, according to the March 7 letter.
Clearing away the debris and junk would fall under grading and building permits that would be required for the operating permit to be issued, Ableman said.
The city aims to bring all the conditions on site into compliance with city rules, she said. So if a permit is issued to Tenelco, it would also bring Evergreen Sanitation into compliance as well.
In 2005 and 2006, more than 25,000 cubic yards of wood fiber waste from Kimberly-Clark operations was taken to the Lake Stevens site, presumably to be used for soil mixing, according to the city of Everett.
The city acquired the pile of wood waste when it bought the Kimberly-Clark Riverside site in 2004, said Chris Chesson, senior environmental specialist for the city.
The city paid Series Seven, doing business as Evergreen On-site, $355,600 to take the material.
The pile was tested before being trucked to Lake Stevens and found to contain high amounts of nitrogen and some amounts of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper and lead, according to a 2003 document. The state Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over topsoil, signed off on it before it was removed, Chesson said.
“There was no indication that these levels are above anything that’s going to create a problem,” he said.
The soil will have to be tested as part of environmental studies on the site, Ableman said.
The family could either hire a firm to do the studies and have the results reviewed by the city, or the family could pay the city to supervise the work, she said.
“Either way it’s got to be verified by the city,” Ableman said.
The city then will decide whether a more detailed environmental study needs to be done. At that point, the public can weigh in, Ableman said. She did not have a timeline.
Judy Bales said that she and her husband, Mike, knew about the business when they moved into the home eight years ago, but didn’t investigate it enough.
“If we had known what we were moving into we would not have bought this house.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Correction, Aug. 22, 2013: This story originally incorrectly identified the location of the neighborhood in relationship to the business. It also incorrectly state Catherine Eldredge’s relation to the family.