Dear Friends and Neighbor,
It is our mission to fight the environmental injustice and push for odor abatement in the South Bay. One important activity we do is to work with government agencies to enforce regulations. As experience has taught us, we need to pay close attention every step of the way.
In this update, we will share with you the latest about Newby’s composting operation, and why and how you should file complaints with government authorities.
Newby’s Static Pile Composting, Its Risks, and Our Requests
Newby’s composting operation has probably been the biggest offender to our air quality. As the result of a class action litigation, that operation has been ordered to be converted to the Covered Aerated Static Pile (CASP). Feel free to google this term, and you will be pleased.
However, things can still go wrong in many ways. With those gigantic piles of organic material sitting on a high open ground and prevailing wind blowing our way, one single leak can turn our beautiful city to smell worse than a cow town.
San Jose LEA, the local enforcement agency for CalRecycle, the governing body for solid waste operations, has been willfully ignoring the myriads of complaints we filed by phone and online. Recently, this agency has hired a new supervisor, and we took the opportunity to address our specific concerns. Our very own Ms L. has done the heavy lifting and written a compelling letter to both San Jose LEA and CalRecycle to demand specific conditions to be included in Newby’s CASP permit. Her letter is attached at the end of this message.
Everyone Can and Should Help
Every progress we make is because of your support. The government officials are willing to talk to us because the number of your complaints weighed in.
We ask you to raise your standards for our environmental well being. Try to report whenever and wherever you smell foul air.
For landfill odor, call Odor Hotline at (800) 334-6367
For composting odor, file the CalEPA online form. Make sure to select “Solid Waste” on the form.
It takes more than a town to change the way things are done. Only with a mounting evidence based on the complaint number can we ask for more measures from the authorities. We are also pushing for odorous gas meters installed at selected sites to monitor air quality from that perspective. We dream of a day when BAAQMD (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) will publish H2S readings in our area.
So, please keep reporting. Spread the words and get more people to call and file. Tell people we don’t have to live with this. Tell everyone we deserve better.
South Bay Eco Citizens
Subject: Public comment for SWIS# 43-AN-0017 permit (Newby Island CASP conversion
Hi Bryan and Bob (cc CalRecycle),
As the surrounding land-use continues to be urbanized, I hope LEA will work in tandem with CalRecycle and BAAQMD to bolster permit conditions and drive Newby Island towards effective odor abatement, rather than place the burden on impacted communities to rely on the judicial process. The 2016 class action settlement court order driving this CASP conversion is already the second court order for Newby Island compost operations. Please see to it that stronger permitting and enforcement processes are in place.
Kindly consider my inputs below for the above permit application:
Concern #1: Uncovered compost-related operations
Conversion to Covered Aerated Static Piles (CASP) alone may not adequately abate odor since green waste grinding operation, stockpile and material transfers to/from compost piles remain uncovered despite being confirmed sources of odor (per BAAQMD’s investigations). The proposed cover (wood chips) is not a permanent fixture and may be damaged by wind erosion or improper maintenance. Palo Alto Public Works had openly published the following conclusion in its decision to end composting operation within its city boundary: “While many technologies can control process odors, only a structure that covers the entire operation (like a building) can control odors that generate from moving the compost into the vessels or from process area to process area.” .
Concern #2: Risk of increased odor nuisance during CASP transition
Based on Republic Services West Contra Costa Landfill’s recent struggle with Covered Aerated Static Piles technology (including a cease-and-desist order from the LEA), I am concerned over any odor nuisance from unforeseen problems as the operator appears to still be learning and developing CASP BMPs. Additionally, the operator expects increased transfer of materials during the CASP transition. These transfers, if not properly managed, could increase odor nuisance.
Concern #3: Permit enforcement
While public nuisance condition has always been a condition in the compost permit, LEA has not demonstrated to the public that it is committed to enforce this condition. From 2014 to 2017, LEA has only issued 1 violation (9/15/2015) to Newby Island Compost operation despite BAAQMD’s recurring statements that the compost operation is a dominant odor source and continue to forward confirmed compost complaints to LEA. There is no transparency in the process for the public to track LEA’s responses to these confirmed compost complaints.
To address the above concerns, I strongly urge you to consider the inclusion of strict permit conditions to protect public welfare:
A. Decrease the maximum limit of compost throughput until CASP technology is proven to reduce odor by more than 90% (based on projections cited in the 2016 class-action settlement).
B. If odor nuisance continues, adoption of fully enclosed composting technology (eg. in-vessel) that has been proven in urban areas must be evaluated.
C. Require preventive measures based on learnings from West Contra Costa CASP implementation.
D. As wood-chip cover may be prone to wind erosion and poor maintenance, LEA should require the most effective cover/bio-filter material to control odor as well as influence applicants to install trees as wind and odor barrier.
E. Prominently include number of confirmed compost complaints forwarded by BAAQMD and corrective action taken in LEA’s monthly inspection reports, and commit to timely issuance of public nuisance violations.
Thank You again for the opportunity to comment on the permit revision.