By Jon Nehring
For the past couple months, a group of paid signature gatherers has been knocking on the doors of Marysville residents pushing a study to get to the bottom of a persistent odor problem in our community.
It’s important to set the record straight on what is actually happening here. Despite portraying themselves as backing an independent study that gets at the heart of the odor problem, this paid, cynical effort appears to be yet another attempt by Cedar Grove, widely believed to be the obvious and demonstrated main source of odor in our community, to deflect blame by funding a petition drive using paid contractors to masquerade as Marysville citizen activists.
We know this because when a signature gatherer knocked on City Councilman Jeff Vaughan’s door, he asked her who she was working for, and after a fair bit of hemming and hawing, she acknowledged it was a Cedar Grove effort.
So, Cedar Grove is running a campaign that is deceptive to Marysville residents, and the people who’ve discovered this do not appreciate it. A number of complaints have been received at City Hall about this latest attempt by Cedar Grove to once again deny its problems and blame others.
It’s also important to understand that what they’re saying about the City of Marysville is not true. For the record, the City does not oppose an odor study. We will support an odor study that is truly independent and performed by a neutral third party. That is NOT the case with a study promoted by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which wants to use a company by the name of Odotech, the very same vendor that Cedar Grove has already contracted with for two years.
Not only is Odotech not a neutral third party, it is a company that has pocketed at least $200,000 from Cedar Grove and has a business relationship with them. Odotech also showed itself to be neither neutral nor interested in unbiased scientific results when a representative of their company attended a PSCAA board meeting in June and insinuated the City of Marysville’s wastewater treatment plant is a likely odor culprit. It appears they may have already predetermined the outcome and should NOT be contracted for a credible, independent odor study.
I’d also like to set the record straight about our wastewater treatment plant. The facility has been in operation since 1959, but has never been a source of odor complaints to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. At times it can produce a mild smell that is entirely different from and totally distinguishable from the Cedar Grove odor. We have repeatedly invited visitors to come and tour it at any time. We even made the offer to PSCAA’s enforcement officers to have space there, because the City has nothing to hide and if it is the source of this odor that so many are complaining about, it can be addressed immediately. Not surprisingly, Cedar Grove hasn’t made a similar offer that we are aware of.
A few weeks ago, the PSCAA held a community meeting with one week’s notice to describe their planned odor study. More than 100 people gave up two hours on a nice evening to express that they have had enough of the denial, stalling and attempts to blame others, the lack of enforcement to get Cedar Grove into compliance, and the lack of responsibility from Cedar Grove to fix the problem.
At that meeting, PSCAA Executive Director Craig Kenworthy said that he needs to build a record, and that’s partly what the study will do. Well, it seems that there’s already a copious record — one that includes $119,000 in fines upheld by The State Pollution Control Hearings Board despite a costly appeal by Cedar Grove. PSCAA can already create a requirement in Cedar Grove’s operating permit that Level 2 nuisance odors offsite — the kind we experience now — will result in further enforcement, which might incentivize Cedar Grove to improve their operations with respect to the smell.
As we’re seeing from this latest effort, Cedar Grove would apparently prefer to spend large amounts of money on door-to-door signature gatherers, phone surveys, and appeals rather than actually addressing their impacts on this community. Imagine if they instead spent their time, energy and funds actually working to fix the problem. Cedar Grove has a lot of hard work to do to restore any level of public confidence that it cares about the community or is doing the right thing. The PSCAA also has much to do to revive public faith in its ability to accomplish meaningful regulation without deference to or fear of Cedar Grove.
About the author
Jon Nehring is the mayor of Marysville.