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Cedar Grove hit with two lawsuits over odor claims

MARYSVILLE — Cedar Grove Composting was hit with two separate lawsuits on Jan. 23, one from 76 Marysville and Everett plaintiffs who filed suit in the Everett Division of the Snohomish County District Court, and the other from roughly 280 residents of the Maple Valley area of King County, who filed suit in the King County District Court.

Those who live in and near those areas have complained for years of foul odors that they attribute to the operations of Cedar Grove's commercial composting facilities in Everett and Maple Valley. The two lawsuits filed on Jan. 23 claim that their approximately 350 plaintiffs have suffered "the loss of use and enjoyment of their properties," as well as "substantial and unreasonable interference with the quiet use and enjoyment of their property" and "annoyance, inconvenience and substantial personal discomfort." The plaintiffs are seeking $75,000 per person, which is the maximum amount of damages that can be requested through the district courts, and could add up to more than $26 million if their suits are successful.

Marysville resident Mike Davis, co-founder of "Citizens for a Smell Free Snohomish County," explained that the lawsuits were separate because they were filed in different counties, but acknowledged that their complaints were otherwise virtually identical.

Cedar Grove spokesperson Laird Harris declined to comment on the lawsuits, and instead described Cedar Grove as "continuing efforts to improve odor management at the site" and waiting for the results of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's study of odors in the Snohomish River delta, where Cedar Grove's Smith Island plant is located, near north Everett.

During the Clean Air Agency's public forums in the Marysville area last year to explain how this odor study would employ instruments called "e-noses" and volunteers alike to identify the source of the smell, Davis was joined by Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. in objecting to the fact that Odotech would be supplying the e-noses for the Clean Air Agency's independent study, since Odotech already supplied Cedar Grove with e-noses for its self-monitoring.

Cedar Grove's Smith Island plant opened in 2004, and collects yard and food waste from Snohomish County, and parts of King County, to turn it into compost for gardens.

In 2011, Cedar Grove contested $119,000 in fines from the Clear Air Agency for odor violations, and lost. In 2012, Cedar Grove sued the city of Marysville for withholding documents that Cedar Grove had requested, but that the city had claimed were exempt from disclosure. Although Snohomish Health District records from 2010 show that Cedar Grove has spent a minimum of $1.7 million on odor control, Davis insists these measures have not yielded noticeable results.

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