Compost petition gains no promise
Colusa supervisors refrain from action on odor complaints

The Appeal-Democrat
Marysville-Yuba City, CA
February 25, 2004
By Ching Lee/Appeal-Democrat

Colusa residents will have to hold their breath a little longer.

After more than 300 signatures on petitions asking the Colusa board of supervisors
to suspend compost making operations at Colusa Mushroom Inc., members of
the ad hoc group NoMO, which stands for No More Odor, came away with no
guarantees that they'll be able to breathe fresh air anytime soon.

"I'm very disappointed that the board took no action," said Jeneane Wilsey, a
member of NoMO.

Jeff Poppinga, who spoke on behalf of the group, recounted for Colusa supervisors
The ongoing problems some Colusa residents have endured in the past year since
Colusa Mushroom moved in next door.

Describing what he smelled as "the odor of death," Poppinga said he was
"convinced that some animal had met its end underneath our house" when he first
encountered odors from the compost plant.

"Of course, that was not the case, and I later came to the realization that the odor
of death was routinely emitted from the compost facility ironically known as
Colusa Mushroom," he said.

Located in Colusa Industrial Park off Highway 20, which is less than two miles
from many of the residents who have been complaining about the odor, Colusa
Mushroom is not currently growing any mushrooms. It is, however, making lots of
compost used to produce mushrooms. The company has a contract to supply
Petaluma Mushroom Farm with compost and routinely trucks the materials from
Colusa to Petaluma.

Poppinga criticized Ed Hulbert, general manager of Colusa Industrial Park, and
officials from Colusa's planning commission of jumping the gun in welcoming
Colusa Mushroom into the community without thoroughly investigating the new
tenant's background and "their actual environmental impact to our community."

Quoting statements from two physicians, Poppinga also warned of possible health
risks associated with living in close proximity to compost facilities because of
airborne fungal spores that are believed to be emitted from such operations.

But Colusa Mushroom President Dave Cerini, who also worked for Petaluma
Mushroom Farm, disputed the health risk charges saying there have been no
known workers' compensation claims associated with hazardous substances at the
Petaluma facility since its been in business in 1978.

Hulbert noted the industrial park has also been working diligently with Colusa
Mushroom to correct the odor problem and knows of no hazards associated with
the plant's current operations.

"I can assure you that (Colusa Industrial Park) followed all procedures, even as
we move forward on this project," said Hulbert.

He further assured Colusa supervisors that all reports from state and federal
agencies that have inspected the plant show there have been no violations.

Mark Marshall, Colusa board of supervisors chairman, reminded Hulbert how
timelines have come and gone in the past year with no resolutions to the problem.

Bunkers, which were installed in 2003 to contain the decomposing materials,
eliminated about 30 percent of the odors, Cerini said. In January, roofs, which
Cerini said have brought odor levels down by 70 percent, were added to the
bunkers. He said the plan is now to put roofing over the entire facility, which he
believes will reduce odors by 90 percent.

"I'm sure you understand the frustration we all have," said Marshall. "We need
some assurances, not just 'We're working on it; we're working on it,' which is not
satisfying our constituents."

He asked Cerini to work with NoMO as the plant enters its next construction
phase, which Cerini said will take anywhere from 60 to 90 days to complete.

"My feathers won't be ruffled. I'd be glad to work with these citizens," said Cerini.

Residents who detect odor are asked to call Colusa Mushroom at 624-7940 to
report the problem or the state hotline, 1-800-952-5588.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Ching Lee can be reached at 749-4724. You may
e-mail her at

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