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Cedar Grove withdraws expansion of Everett facility

MARYSVILLE — Cedar Grove Composting announced on Thursday, May 24, that it will not pursue its previous plans to construct a $20 million anaerobic digester at its Smith Island site in Everett. This news drew a positive response from Mike Davis, the Marysville resident who co-founded Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County.

According to Cedar Grove spokesperson Laird Harris, the company was informed on Wednesday, May 23, that the co-lead agencies that conducted the Washington State Environmental Policy Act review of Cedar Grove's proposal had withdrawn their earlier determination that, with mitigation, this project would not require a full Environmental Impact Statement.

"I think the city of Everett stepped up and did the right thing," Davis said. "I believe that we have a chance now. We were able to slow the Cedar Grove machine down and force them to analyze their operation openly and honestly."

For three years, Davis' group has accused Cedar Grove's existing Smith Island facility of being the source of odors that have also been reported by Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and Tulalip Tribes Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. While Davis urged area residents affected by the odor to maintain pressure on Cedar Grove by continuing to call in odor complaints to the Puget Sound Clean Air agency, Harris explained that Cedar Grove plans to move forward with smaller scale digester projects, and has not shelved its plans to turn food and yard waste into renewable energy.

"Building renewable energy projects in the Puget Sound is challenging," said Cedar Grove CEO Steve Banchero, who noted that the company has already expended $2.5 million in permitting costs for Smith Island. "With the added costs in time and money required for an EIS, this project is no longer financially feasible. We are disappointed with this decision, and we know our disappointment is shared by many who were looking forward to a significant clean energy facility that would further enhance the region's organic waste recycling efforts."

Harris added that Cedar Grove has begun discussions with large institutions in the area that generate organic waste about placing smaller scale digesters on or near their sites.

"There are many benefits to this approach, including the ability of the generator to maintain feedstock quality and make direct use of the energy produced," Harris said.

"Cedar Grove has been a national leader in finding and implementing new technologies for organics recycling," Banchero said. "We will continue to look for new and better ways of recovering value from materials that don't belong in a landfill."

Harris pointed out that an Everett digester could have converted food and yard waste into enough energy to provide electricity for 400 homes or fuel for 1,000 vehicles a year. Like Nehring and Sheldon, Davis has repeatedly emphasized that his qualms are not with composting itself, but with the manner in which Cedar Grove conducts it. To that end, he called for his fellow citizens to let the agencies responsible for the EIS know that "we will hold them to the highest standards of evaluation possible. I hope Cedar Grove hears us now and does the right thing by enclosing their entire operation and developing a way to move the finished compost off of the property immediately."

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