MARYSVILLE — The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is looking for members of the community to volunteer for a year-long odor monitoring study and hosted an open house discussing the project on Sept. 12 at the Marysville Boys & Girls Club.
The open house followed a series of public meetings, hosted by several different organizations, surrounding ongoing complaints of a bad odor that many believe is emanating from the Cedar Grove Composting facility.
The PSCAA will be using electronic noses developed by a company called Odotech to gather information about odors from potential odor sources in the region, including the Cedar Grove facility.
“Each source will be considered. There are no odor sources in the area that won’t be considered,” said PSCAA executive director Craig Kenworthy. “This study is going to put these e-noses out to look for chemical fingerprints.”
The PSCAA is responsible for monitoring air quality in the region, but enforcing it can be difficult. “We’ve had ongoing enforcement efforts in the area for the last several years,” said Kenworthy. “One of the challenges is that when we write up violations, an inspector has to be able to say, ‘I was here, I smelled this odor’ and then travel with it back to source.”
Odotech CEO Thierry Pagé, explained during the open house how the electronic noses (e-noses) are used to track odors, including how they are calibrated to detect a singular chemical compound. He also explained why the study requires help from community members.
“The human genome has 1,000 genes for smelling,” he said. “There are more odor sources in this region than there are e-noses so we will focus on the most likely sources, but we rely on community input.”
Some community members have expressed concern over the decision by the PSCAA to use technology by Odotech in their independent study, as Odotech also provides electronic noses to Cedar Grove for their own self-monitoring.
“We’ve gotten complaints from the city of Marysville and Tulalip and my response is that the e-nose technology is fairly recent,” said Kenworthy. “We’ve looked high and low for another company that provides this technology. If we could find someone with the same technology, without any knowledge of us or Cedar Grove or the state of Washington, we would choose them.”
Meanwhile, Cedar Grove is supportive of the study and echoes their statement about Odotech.
“Cedar Grove had nothing to do with the process of how they selected their vendors,” said Karen Dawson, community outreach director for Cedar Grove.
“I think this meeting was a comprehensive presentation about how this process will go. The next step is getting geographically diverse volunteers.”
Dawson hopes that the study will provide an independent voice in the ongoing clash between Cedar Grove and those who blame the company for the smell.
“Cedar Grove’s voice has been missing from this conversation for a while,” said Dawson. “This study will give us the opportunity to visit and resolve the issues. We are a family-owned company and a leader in the industry. A lot of people forget that we are providing green jobs, donating to both Marysville and Everett communities, and ultimately diverting waste from landfills and reducing greenhouse gases.”
Many who attended the open house signed on to volunteer as odor monitors, including Marysville resident Tony Saluewicz.
“The sour smell has been here ever since I moved to Marysville six years ago,” he said. “A few years ago we were forced from our house because it was so bad.” Saluewicz and his wife believe that the odor comes from the Cedar Grove facility.
“When you drive by there on the flats, the smell is right there,” said Janice Saluewicz, who hopes that the outcome of the study would be to eliminate the bad odor.
“Ideally, it would be to stop the darn smell, but you can’t stop the smell unless you are able to technologically point the finger at the source,” she said. “The odor is really unfair to the citizens of Marysville who can’t go outside and enjoy their own community.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the odor monitoring project can email Joanne Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.