Compost operation, foul odors gone
Neighbors of mushroom farm relieved but future of operation still debated

March 28, 2003

By TOBIAS YOUNG, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The stench at the Petaluma Mushroom Farm is gone.

"The difference is dramatic," said a neighbor, who fought the farm's composting operation for years. "I consider it a restoration of the neighborhood, back to the neighborhood as I first found it when we moved here 26 years ago."

The farm shut down its composting operation in February after a long history of missing deadlines imposed by Sonoma County officials and is now trucking in compost from a facility in Colusa.

The farm has 82 workers and produces 5 million pounds of mushrooms a year worth an estimated $4.5 million, but the outdoor composting operation created a stink that residents said sometimes became unbearable.

The fate of the farm is uncertain.

Duncan Soldner, a consulting project manager with the farm, said there are no plans to close the facility, despite conflicting information from the county.

County officials have said the owner, David Cereni, has explored shutting the mushroom farm down entirely and converting the buildings to some other use.

But Soldner, who is a partner in the new Colusa Mushroom Inc. as are four other managers or former managers with the Petaluma farm said the farm will continue in its present capacity.

"Every facility has a certain life," Soldner said. "But right now this is a viable mushroom farm and seems to be operating just fine."

The compost is being made in an industrial park in Colusa and is now trucked to the Thompson Lane mushroom farm just west of Petaluma.

Soldner said with the composting gone, there is less heavy equipment noise and fewer trucks coming to the facility because raw materials for making compost no longer have to be trucked in.

Colusa Mushroom is an unaf-filiated company started by managers, including Soldner, from Petaluma Mushroom, he said.

The intention is to also build another full-scale mushroom farm in Colusa operated by the new company, which would continue to supply compost to both facilities.

Colusa Mushroom has bought the composting equipment from Petaluma.

A neighbor, who is pleased the composting is gone, isn't overly concerned with what may or may not replace the mushroom farm in Petaluma. "As long as it's permitted and they're following the rules, it's fine," he said.

The mushroom farm is still under other ongoing requirements, including installing monitoring wells to test for possible contamination from tons of pesticides used in the operation each year.

Soldner said a compliance report will be submitted at the end of March as a final requirement to meet the conditions for ending the composting operation.

"We're in compliance with everything we need to comply with," Soldner said.

You can reach Staff Writer Tobias Young at 762-9498 or tyoung@pressdemocrat.com.

home page