To accompany its new mechanical water treatment facility, Logan has designed an environmentally friendly plan to compost the biosolids, but residents say the planned site is too near “the gateway to Benson.”
“We already have the sewer system there, there’s Gossner’s, and we have their polishing ponds,” former-Judge Thomas Willmore said at the Cache County Planning Commission meeting on Thursday. “There are other places to put it. Benson is a gateway, 3200 West is a gateway for businesses and Benson will continue to grow.”
Another resident, Katie Fuller, spoke of how Benson does not use the sewer system like the majority of the county.
“Each resident here has a septic tank,” she said. “That’s how we contain our waste, so we would not contribute to the waste used at this site at all.”
But as Logan’s environmental director Issa Hamud said at the heated meeting, Logan originally purchased the property in Benson as part of a wastewater treatment plan and it’s the most cost-effective alternative.
He added no matter where the facility goes, “it’s going to be in somebody’s neighborhood” due to the ever-growing population of the valley and available space.
“I’m prepared to mitigate any concerns about the design, smell, or rodents or any other concerns they have,” he told The Herald Journal. “But I cannot choose one neighborhood over another one.”
Over the concern of potential odor, insects and rodents from the site, the Cache County Planning Commission — sans Chair Brandon Spackman — chose to not recommended the Public Infrastructure rezone request for the Logan-owned parcel off 3200 West in a 3-1 vote before it goes to the Cache County Council for a final decision.
Chris Harrild, the director of development services for the county, said the residents’ concerns and “public clamor” were valid reasons to recommend against a rezone to allow for the facility. Kevin Maughan, the wastewater treatment superintendent for Hyrum, agreed their feelings and concerns “are valid and need to be addressed.”
However, Maughan has run the biosolid compost operation for Hyrum for seven years and said with proper management and enough money, odor is easy to mitigate.
“If you’re processing your biosolids properly, it should not have an offensive odor,” he said. “It should smell like dirt.”
In fact, Maughan said in the time he’s managed the facility, he has not gotten one complaint about the composting operation. As the wastewater superintendent, he’s received a few calls from citizens concerned a sewer main broke.
“I have gone on late night calls where somebody says, ‘Your sewer system is stinking, and you got to get over here and find out what it is; you’ve got to have a leak,’ and I come running around to the source,” he said, “and the composting yard next door is using their big turner, and it’s rolling that stuff over and that odor changes with the wind a little bit.”
This was a concern for Jeff Kunzler, due to the proximity of the polishing ponds on one side of his property and Gossner’s on the other.
“I can tell you which way the wind is blowing by the flavor of smell we get,” he said.
Commissioner Chris Sands, the only member to vote against the negative recommendation, had a different experience when he lived in Young Ward for 25 years.
“My house was about a mile and a quarter west of the landfill, directly left,” he said. “I never smelled the landfill while I was out there. I could smell my neighbor’s dairy farm, you know, when they were ready to spread manure or whatever, but I didn’t experience any major impact.”
Providence Mayor John Drew has toured the Hyrum facility and spoke in favor of the rezone in Benson to allow for something similar — something which brought heckles from the crowd and calls to put the facility in Providence.
Drew and Maughan both said with the proper aeration treatment of the compost facility, the feared impacts would not occur. Maughan said the closest houses to the Hyrum field are less than a mile away, and the proximity to homes would be closer to two miles in Benson.
Leland Myers, a consultant on Logan’s project, was also the general manager for the Central Davis Sewer District when it began a similar biosolid compost operation. He said while it’s a simple enough process to make organic compost, it takes special management to ensure it’s done with minimal odor, and there are lots of ways it can go wrong.
For example, several opponents referenced the Timpanogos Special Service District’s shortcomings in its biosolid compost operation that has since been abandoned after the public lost trust they could fix the problems.
“If you pick the wrong process, you’re going to get odor,” he said. “If you pick a static pile (like Logan’s plan), it is a process that will be inherently operated with minimal odor.”
Myers said while Central Davis’s program is successful, it has evolved over time to incorporate best practices — something Logan won’t have to do as others have already made the mistakes.
“Logan is going in, in the initial construction, with a process that aerates the static piles such as that they can change if they need to, and so they’re going to build it right the first time, not horribly like we did,” Myers said. “In that regard, I would say that this facility will be better because it will be built to utilize the process.”