Colusa County Sun-Herald
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Supervisors hear more from NoMO

Staff Reporter

NoMO (no more odor) members once again approached the Colusa County Board of Supervisors this week in an effort to shut down the Colusa Mushroom composting operation until the odor problem is solved. The group represents residents that contend the odor coming from Colusa Mushroom compost stacks is unacceptable.  They have referred to the stench as a dead animal smell, and have suggested that they are in danger medically while being subjected to pollutants from the plant. It also questioned where the water from the plant was being discharged.

The group called for Board direction to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the mushroom plant, to order a cease and desist order to the plant until an EIR is completed and a special use permit is in place and to require a performance bond from the plant.

However, it was determined by the Board it would take as long to complete the legalities of a cease and desist order as it would for the plant to complete construction efforts to eliminate the smell.

NoMO spokesperson, Jeff Poppinga, questioned what residents near the plant may be breathing. He said the group’s bone of contention for the past year was not that the plant wanted to grow mushrooms, but that it was creating the odor with open-air composting. He also questioned where the special use permits were. Poppinga further suggested that the community may be at risk of contracting respiratory diseases related to the composting.

Supervisor, Doug White, explained to Poppinga that county zoning allows for certain activities in industrial zones. Colusa Mushroom and the composting stacks are located at Colusa Industrial Park, which is in an industrial zone. Composting and mushroom growing are allowed.

“No special use permit is required,” said White.

White went on to say that some of the supervisors had visited the Petaluma Mushroom Plant before CIP went into this operation.

“CIP was open and above-board with the board,: added White.

White said the board knows there will be odor while there is open composting, but that there is an ongoing construction project to eliminate odor.

“The purpose of an EIR is to discover damage to the environment and to mitigate that damage,” White said. “As we speak, CIP is taking measures to do just that.

White said it was his opinion that it is not necessary to work on something that is already being fully acknowledged that it exist, and that is being worked on by CIP to solve.

In response to questions posed by NoMO at an earlier board meeting, Colusa County Building and Planning Director, Stephen Hackney, advised the Board that correct protocol was followed in issuing proper permits to CIP and Colusa Mushroom.

“Proper procedure was followed and the permits were not hastily issued,” he said.

Hackney said the last EIRs were performed at CIP in 1991 and 1992.

“Those reports are currently being updated and the mushroom concerns are being addressed in the update,” Hackney added.

Hackney said that when the update comes to the board that the staff and the board should determine if it is adequate.

“It would be premature to order an EIR at this point and time,” he said.

While NoMO suspects the mushroom plant composting is responsible for respiratory ailments, Department of Health and Human Services Director, Bonnie Marshall, stated there has not been documentation  linking health issues to the mushroom plant.

“We are taking names of people with respiratory problems and doing follow-ups with local physicians,” she said.

Additionally, she asked that anyone who believes they are affected by the plant contact her office.

California Environmental Protection Agency Supervisor, Mary Madison Johnson, also attended the meeting. Johnson advised the board that the EPA was monitoring the air quality. If it were found to be in violation, a citation would be issued, however, Johnson said they were reluctant to issue a citation due to the fact the parties involved were working so hard to complete the process to eliminate the odor.

Ed Hulbert, manager of CIP, addressed NoMos concerns of water being discharged, and said that the plant uses 100% of the water. He added that most of the time the plant’s sump is empty and that it is the steam coming off the compost stacks that is causing the odor, however, the planned enclosed bunkers, and the 35,000 square foot building to enclose the entire wharf will solve the odor problem. He estimates that the project will be completed by mid-May. Once the filtration process is completed, Hulbert anticipated that there would be no off-site odor detectable.

While the NoMO group has called for an immediate cease and desist to the project, the board has determined it would actually take a longer period of time for the legalities of that order to be in effect that it would to wait for the efforts of Colusa Mushroom and CIP to be completed.

In the interim, Board Chairman Mark Marshall encouraged NoMO members, Hulbert and Colusa Mushroom President Dave Cerini , to continue to have an open dialog addressing the concerns of the project.

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