Area residents look to take Cedar Grove to court
November 28, 2012 · 9:57 AM
MARYSVILLE — After three years of crying foul, Marysville’s Mike Davis has decided that he’s had enough of the odor that’s lingered in his life for far too long.
The co-founder of “Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County” has joined other area residents in hiring attorneys, on a contingency fee basis, to investigate filing a civil lawsuit for damages against Cedar Grove Composting.
Todd Hageman and Zak Johnson are the two attorneys whose contact information is listed on the website for “Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County,” and Hageman took time to explain to The Marysville Globe the stage at which the legal proceedings are in at the moment.
“We haven’t filed yet,” Hageman said. “We’re still just investigating, and we could be for a matter of weeks or even months.”
According to Hageman, he and Johnson are investigating to determine whether Davis and his fellow prospective plaintiffs would be able to meet the burden of proof for a suit against Cedar Grove, whose Smith Island facility in Everett is believed by Davis and several other area residents to be the source of a foul odor that’s hindered their ability to enjoy their own property outdoors for the past several years.
However, Hageman noted that Davis’ claims, if they can be proven, could meet the requirements for a nuisance suit against Cedar Grove.
“If the owner of property parcel A is creating unreasonable interference with the ability of the owners of surrounding property parcels B, C, D, E and F to enjoy their own property, in this case allegedly by generating these odors, then that would constitute a nuisance,” Hageman said. “It’s worth investigating, at least.”
Heidi Happonen, a spokesperson for Cedar Grove, agrees that the source of the odor should be investigated, which is why she touted Cedar Grove’s support of a proposed odor-monitoring study in south Marysville and north Everett.
“Cedar Grove’s point of view is that this suit is an unfortunate distraction from the larger goal of objectively and scientifically identifying the source of this odor,” Happonen said. “There are 20 other potential sources of this smell that have already been identified.”
While Happonen cited Cedar Grove’s investments in odor control, which she described as “a benchmark for the industry,” Davis has expressed skepticism about the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s plans to use monitoring equipment provided by Odotech, a company that already contracts with Cedar Grove. These concerns have been echoed by Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
“I want resolution, but they refuse to even admit that they’re the cause of the problem,” said Davis, who recalled that he was motivated to start “Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County” after his father’s 70th birthday party was ruined by the odor a few years ago. “If this odor study finds that they’re the source of the smell, I’m afraid they’ll just challenge the results and we’ll have to start all over again, which is why the only alternative that I can see is to take them to court.”
Davis hopes that media coverage of this issue will reach area residents who might be impacted by the odor and not even know it, so that they could join in the suit.
“We’re going by the property laws on the loss of use due to nuisance odors, that are on the books but that nobody seems to want to enforce,” Davis said.
Phone and email contacts for both Hageman and Johnson are listed on the “Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County” website at http://freemarysville.blogspot.com.