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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sustainability stinks

We're wrecking Portland with bad apartment bunkers, supposedly to save places like North Plains. But then Portland wrecks North Plains anyway, by creating an ungodly stink there with its goofy food compost program.

And that's in February. Just wait 'til July.

Comments (41)

If the farmers think it stinks, it's got to be pretty bad.

I drove through North Plains a couple of weekends ago. The smell was eye-wateringly powerful. I was really surprised -- it wasn't a just an unpleasant odor you get used to like Camas, but it was an ungodly stench that made me roll up the windows, hold my breath and drive faster to get away.

But isn't this in compliance with the city's green geniuses who suggest that if our garbage stinks, just move it a little farther away from our homes? It'a not our problem anymore if it's someone else's.

I haven't been out there recently for a run or a bike ride. That must be a treat.

We older residents can remember when the garbage dumps regularly burned all the garbage collected. And boy did that stink.
All those food waste bins along Portland's streets are really going to be obnoxious this summer. Maybe the hipster bike rider planners will be over come with the stench and leave town so the rest of us can resume a normal life again with regular garbage collection.

I go out that way about every two weeks. At first I thought the putrid smell was from some farmer spraying liquid fertilizer from a dairy. But then that isn't nearly half as bad. I kept whiffing trying to figure it out. Then I read this blog.

When an odor like this cancels out the nice aroma coming from Longbottom Coffee's roasting facility 3 miles away, then you know you have a problem.

When an odor like this cancels out the nice aroma coming from Longbottom Coffee's roasting facility 3 miles away, then you know you have a problem.

I remember not that long ago when the old Wonder Bread plant on North Williams in Portland was still running and the state DEQ went after them for the wonderful smell of the bread baking. I used to drive by there every morning on the way to work. Great smell.

Not long after the DEQ made all of their threats, the owners announced the plant would be shutdown. All of those jobs were lost to a similar plant, probably up Seattle way.

The plant has since been bulldozed out of existence and will soon be the site of (surprise!) another condo bunker monstrosity brought to you by the The SamRand Twins, the PDC, and Homer Williams, et. al.

If I were Longbottom Coffee, I'd be wondering when the state DEQ is going to decide that the stench from the composting facility isn't coming from Portland's garbage.

I suspect having two to three trucks criss-crossing Portland all week long instead of just one is actually being less environmental and probably less economical as well. I do know it makes ordinary workerbees less productive as we now spend several extra minutes per week trying to plot how to economize on garbage can space since the garbage can pickup is now only once every two weeks instead of the more conventional once per week schedule.

It's gotten so tiring trying to economize on garbage can space I've lost interest trying to keep marginal paper and other marginal stuff out of the blue "recycling" bin. On top of this, I am noticing business's outside garbage bins being over run with what I think is other folks' garbage. You won't hear any negatives from the Bureau chiefs downtown, though, as they've already declared victory even before launching the program citywide.

I guess Adams wanted to leave us with something (dreadful) to remind us of him when he hopefully departs government next January.

trying to plot how to economize on garbage can space

You do that? I don't. I just mash it down. Any overage somehow disappears. Not sure where it goes.

Oh, and that big yard debris/slop-bucket wheelie bin? Ain't been dumped all month because its empty. Damn maroons at city hall have just about ticked me off enough to cancel "service" completely. I'm considering giving them once a month delivery.

The city is trying to "sell" the Lents plant as only a harmless "transfer station" where food debris will only hang out for 48 hours. This is after it has been in your garage for 2 weeks.

I don't think the PDC will ever have enough money to subsidize Lents revitalization with that thing looming.

I find myself getting much more liberal in what I call "food debris" or "recyclable"
A spot of coffee on that, toss it in the food bin..
Say, that disposable diaper has paper in it.. into the recycle bin it goes...

I call it the mind over matter method of recycling,
I don't mind so it doesn't matter....

Right now composting of dead animal parts (meat) is being tested, but just wait, sooner or later we'll be told that it's the greenest way to deal with dead people. Then of course sooner or later we'll hear that the byproduct makes an excellent food supplement when combined with soybeans and lentils.

They'll figure it out. Compost is simple - they just need to cap the piles with sufficient carbon (wood chips, straw, etc.). It costs more to do it right, though. I put straw in my green can at home to keep the smell down. Works great. The garbage can, however, will be pretty awful this summer.

I'm surprised they haven't built a bigger methane digester to generate power with it. Stahlbush Farms (I think) has a huge one for their crop residues, and dairies all over the state are getting more and more financing/partnership options to install them. Why not use that? Anybody know?

Lexus - the old Wonder Bread factory will be a New Seasons. The condo plan died.

Grump - composting dead animal parts is no problem, just mix and cover with carbon and give it enough time.

Right now composting of dead animal parts (meat) is being tested, but just wait, sooner or later we'll be told that it's the greenest way to deal with dead people.

As I've mentioned before, much as you may hate that obnoxious neighbor, you can't compost him.

Forget the law - the alcohol content alone would likely render it impossible anyway.

Fortunately, we seem to have somebody hanging around lately who Knows All The Answers.

Hey, look it's Max. I've been here since 2005 (though maybe not posting quite that long). I happen to actually know something about composting, on a large but not industrial scale. I do it on a farm on a weekly basis, all year long.

Does coming on here and disagreeing with people (not that I always disagree, though) really bother you that much? That's too bad, because if there are 12 comments and they all agree with the point Jack is making, I'm often going to chime in with the opposite view, even if I agree with Jack, just to keep things balanced. There is nothing worse than an echo chamber.

You are correct about the straw and the wood chips (but not cedar).The straw and or wood chips should be layered with the compost. This mixture should be turned regularly to mix it. Also placing the composting material in a sunny area where the temperature will eventually rise to a minimum of 165 degrees F will naturally sterilize the compost.
This usually works well on a small scale.
The large scale composting facilities require a good deal more management, which seems to be lacking.

Hey Max-

I agree with Jack most of time, but I welcome your comments. This is a most interesting place to sit a spell and listen to the folks speak. There are plenty of compostibles around for all to enjoy.

I'm often going to chime in with the opposite view, even if I agree with Jack, just to keep things balanced.

That would not be a good idea.

Jack - I clearly come here with no intent to piss people off, you or anybody, even Max of JK. I love the site, but if you really don't want your comments section to engage the alternative viewpoint, then say so. If so, I'll just drop it.

Contrary viewpoints are welcome, but please don't bait people. I am dealing with enough of that this week.

I'm not trying to bait people - that's why my posts are generally long. But, point taken.

A complete mess.
North Plains people should not have to have their living/working spaces ruined by this gross plan.
Many in Portland do not like the forced plan either. Those whose bright idea this was and who are pushing this in thinking it is a eco way to go ought to be made to live by these facilities.

I do not see how this can continue. But apparently it will. I understand a Clackamas hearing officer has approved a permit to allow one of these in the Stafford Road area, right by a school. Now a plan for a transfer station in Lents? Before long every little eco district will have a stench station, is that the grand plan?
People need to take these to court before this gets out of hand.

Those who decided this, need to admit a huge mistake has been made and not only make a few changes, as only making somewhat better is simply not good enough. This should not only be about some making money on this, at the expense of human consideration and the health of our community. We need to go back to what we had and do it soon before the summer! Of all the stinking issues we have had to deal with here in pdx, they finally had to force a plan that fits the theme and actually does stink!

I used to think getting outside of the UGB and Portland might help getting away from those who like to control and push their plans on everyone else, but now it is looking more like having to get out of the state!

Don't kid yourself or us, Jack, that contrary opinions are all that welcome. Some contrary opinions are welcome with you. And you are as likely to be a baiter as some of your readers.

You either put the food into compost or we keep finding more places to dump our garbage.

I don't get the incoherent opposition to this program. You can't keep generating garbage.

There is more than enough room for all the garbage we want to throw away. Repeating misconceptions does not make them true. Have you ever looked out the window of an airplane?

A. Clark Wiseman, an economist at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., has calculated that if Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards deep, by the year 3000 this national garbage heap will fill a square piece of land 35 miles on each side. This is less than 5% of what many propose for solar power farms.

Overall landfill capacity is actually increasing. Dump operators keep finding new ways to pack the trash tighter, to make it decompose faster, and pile it higher. Some landfill owners actually compete for our trash; they make money off it by putting grass on top of it and building ski slopes and golf courses.

Hey Masterblaster! What don't you understand about the citizens of North Plains complaining about the stench of Portland's garbage rotting in their community? The overlords of Portland have decided to truck Portland's meat waste 25 miles to another community because they are too afraid to deal with it with in the city limits. It's disgusting. The overlords need to find some land within the city limits for this compost experiment. Under the East side of the Freemont Bridge there is plenty of open space. North of the Pearl would work. Under the Markham Bridge would be a great place to demonstrate how "Portland composts".

Get a clue.

The comments incoherent? I suppose masterblaster sees coherence in the program. Let's see how coherent it appears by mid summer.

Perhaps mb might take up residence downwind from the dump. A nice small trailer will do.

But wait! That's incoherent! Why would he do that?

What if we hire the Goat Guy to bring his herd to the site? Wouldn't they take care of the problem?

I suppose that Stenchy and the rest of his family might feel a bit put out by the competition...

Thank you for that information.
It might help those who insist this is what we must do now, to live daily with stench and the consequences.

As far as health matters, connect the dots here. . . . . .
throwing meat into compost, with hormones and antibiotics, great for composting and showering over our fields that grow our food?

I do have some issues with the composting program, namely the happy talk from the City and the lack of public input in designing the program beyond a perfunctory, stage-managed "pilot program" with a very small percentage of the total households in Portland. But I think it's going a bit too far to say that Portland foisted the stinky compost mound on North Plains or somehow coerced that community into accepting it. Portland contracted with Recology, who in turn applied for a permit for the compost-processing facility from Washington County. The anger of North Plains residents and others about this needs to be directed at the Washington County commissioners, as indeed some of it already has.

I, and all other apartment dwellers within the City limits can sit back and laugh about the insanity because we are not obliged to engage in it AT ALL. So much for significant change . . . there are a lot of condo and apartment dwellers who can blow this whole garbage sorting thing off. We can throw anything we want into the garbage whenever we feel like it. While we may feel blessed, it isn't really fair or efficient.

North Plains should reading the Arlington, OR ground-breaking tome, "LIVING WITH PILES" and learn to embrace its garbage.

Those in charge would no doubt offer up the talismanic word "jobs!" to placate those who must live with the stench . . .


Even the garbage generated in Bartertown was processed underground to avoid offending the post-apocalyptic population...

Not even that much consideration given to North Plains.

For some reasons the links wouldn't go through, but you can look it up too on google - recologyoregon

The recologyoregonmaterialrecovery at Foster Recycling Center:

We cannot accept "wet" household garbage, or waste which is liable to decay, spoil, or become putrid.

Suttle Road Recyling Center, N. Portland:

We cannot accept "wet" household garbage, or waste which is liable to decay, spoil, or become putrid.

The Davis Recycling Center, West Linn:

Recology Oregon Material Recovery
(ROMR) - West Linn Dan Davis Recycling Facility is operated by Recology for the City of West Linn. We accept yard debris and wood waste and metal.
We also sell compost, organic humus, dark hemlock and medium bark dust.
Accepted Items
Items We Accept
Yard debris, sod, bushes and shrubs(branches and wood must be separated)
Wood, branches, and stumps (under 2')
PROHIBITED MATERIALS: Wet Garbage, Food Waste, Chemicals, Commercial Refrigerants, Railroad Ties, Paint, Auto Parts/Motors, Tires Over 22.5 Inches, Hazardous Waste Including Asbestos Containing Materials

Items Sold at Recology Oregon Material RecoveryWest Linn Dan Davis Recycling Facility
Items We Sell
Top Soil
Dark Hemlock
Red Hemlock
Gravel (¾ inch minus

Question: Is the facility at North Plains a new type of facility than these listed above, as it clearly states a prohibited material is food waste?
In my opinion, this may be a new kind of plant, an experiment perhaps? In any event since they sell compost and top soil, I think we need to stop and examine in depth the consequences of these decisions and this facility.

Eric (and interest others): here's an update:


Now, DEQ's starting to get involved as well.

Obviously, not being an unfortunate North Plains resident, the stench issue doesn't directly affect me (yet). But I follow it with interest because it's so typical of the way our smarmy little "mayor" operates: he had no plan, aside from burnishing his "green" credentials.

He simply ordered that our garbage services be halved with no commensurate rate reduction, contracted with a dodgy company in what he assumed would be a low-impact area, and now it's blowing up.

Residents, business owners, and farmers are up in arms, WashCo is involved, and now the state.

To return to my previous note about not being able to compost an obnoxious neighbor - I wonder if an exception could be made for "royalty".

@T/O/D: thanks.

Residents, business owners, and farmers are up in arms, WashCo is involved, and now the state.

We all should be considering the overall implications of this plan.

Nature's Needs are used as soil amendments to many agricultural industries including landscape yards, orchards, and vineyards.

I would think the wine industry would step in if it all affects the change/taste of their wines. Orchards, foods, - what assurances do we have about this product being put on soils?

I don't suppose the "smart" ones such as Adams thought that far ahead or they don't care.

Clineman voiced my concerns. What happens to all the antibiotics and other chemicals present in either plant or animal waste? If I put the resulting compost on my garden, what am I doing to myself and my family? How much of any harmful substance stays in the soil or gets into the aquifer? We already have a problem with our wastewater being polluted with chemicals even after treatment and these are showing up in fish and aquatic creatures. There seems to be some very simplistic or magical thinking about all of this works. Kind of like someone looked at one of those Eco Lifecycle diagrams you see in grade school textbooks and used it as a blueprint for how things should be in real life.

What I couldn't figure out is why COP didn't just subsidize garbage disposers for anyone who didn't already have them. The Columbia Blvd. Wastewater Treatment Plant has a method of dealing with waste solids that turns the sludge into safe fertilizer. Wouldn't disposing of meat scraps in one's sink be easier and cheaper than the garbage pic-up plan they have now? Sorry Stenchy.


Thank you Nolo for your comments and concerns.

I believe a big red flag needs to be put on some of these "Eco" business/blueprints. We can't assume that whatever is done, can be fixed by new technologies or if mistakes are made, they can be fixed. For example, how fixable has that nuclear crisis in Japan been?
I am not against technology, but in some instances, they have moved beyond reason, not looking to end results by thinking there will always be a fix later. Perhaps technology has moved too fast leaving the effect on human considerations lagging. There are times we need to slow down or just stop....this may be one of those times. I do hope the state will intervene.

I can see how people go for this, if it sounds good and as a way out of "mess of planet" that many may be looking for....
but, I am quite alarmed that this could make things worse. We may be adding problems by soiling our own soil further by this program.
This requires more in depth examination by scientists. This should not be decided by political careerists or economic benefits at the expense of community health.

In my opinion, we need to be careful by the language used to promote plans, in this case Nature's Needs makes it all sound quite good and natural, is it really?
UV treatment plants for water, again treatment and filter may sound good....is it really when mercury bulbs can break and other matters changing the characteristics of our water? Smart growth, is it really?
I am sure others can add examples.

Point being, just because it sounds good, doesn't make it so.


The EPA reviews its sludge regulations every two years to identify possible new toxins.

The EPA divides biosolids into two grades: Class A and the less rigorously treated Class B sewage sludge. Class A sludge has been treated to reduce bacteria before spreading it on land; Class B has not. Portland has a Class B treatment plant.

Other entities are unsure about the safety of applying sludge to farmland. A 2002 National Research Council study stated "that while there is no documented scientific evidence that sewage sludge regulations have failed to protect public health, there is persistent uncertainty on possible adverse health effects."

This is a timely topic as the article just came out today. So how safe is it? Does anyone really know? I did not know that Portland only has a Class B treatment plant, if we are promoted as being so sustainable, why aren't we at least a Class A? Even that is only to "reduce" bacteria before spreading it on land.
My point again, is we need to be prudent period.

Nolo - the article you linked to (thanks for that, it was interesting) mentions why they don't want ANYBODY using garbage disposals - the treatment facility can handle it, but the pipes leading there clog up. The city really wants to minimize the solid materials (especially grease) entering the system.

Sustainability doesn't have to stink. Composting is not the most sustainable nor the least expensive solution for food scrap recycling. What heresy is this? I tried composting 1 ton of food scraps per week on my farm and it was not easy, especially during the winter. I did some research into alternatives. What if there was a way to produce a better soil amendment without nuisance odors or vermin because everything is in simple containers. And what if the environment in the containers did not have to be managed (read cheap and easy). What if you did not need to worry about carbon:nitrogen ratio, aeration, moisture level, or what type of food scraps (meat,fish, dairy - no problem). My research led me to acid anaerobic fermentation, somewhat more commonly known as BOKASHI. It allowed to recycle food scraps year-round with less effort and make a better product - it is not "compost", but it is a great soil additive that increases the microflora of the the soil where produce is grown on the farm. The bokashi process can be done on a small residential scale or a city wide scale. It can be done indoors in a much smaller space than windrowed hot composting. If it were de-centralized, as it could be, then traffic would be less of an issue.

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