If you live within a few miles of Republic Services' Coffin Butte Landfill and Pacific Region Compost, you occasionally know they're not far away because of the odor. That's an issue that came up briefly before the Albany City Council this week but didn't get explored.
Republic Services' Kevin Hines and Julie Jackson were at the council's Monday work session to explain why callers to their Albany office were kept on hold longer than the company considers acceptable. The gist of it was that their experienced customer service employees had been shifted to other jobs within the company because by some time in 2017, their customer service jobs will disappear. The jobs will be gone because Republic Services is setting up regional call centers, and the one for the mid-valley will be in Phoenix, Ariz. They've hired short-term replacements to take calls until the call-center switch is made. And while those new employees are improving, they're not yet up to speed. So, when you call what used to be Albany-Lebanon Sanitation, be prepared to be on hold for a while.
With that explanation out of the way, Mayor Sharon Konopa brought up the odor issue. Recapping it for me later, she said, "A lady in North Albany on Grandview had complained to me about the smell. Wes said he noticed it the last time he was out there." (That's City Manager Wes Hare.)
The company emissaries said the problem is with yard waste, of which there is a huge amount this time of year as mid-valley residents try to keep control of all the springtime growth in their yards. (You know what they're talking about if you, like me, have recently filled the yard debris container with a ton of juicy weeds from the alley out back, and the bin then sat in the sun for a couple of weeks because you filled it just after the pickup day. Don't lift the lid or you'll gag.)
They also said Republic Services was experimenting with four methods to better control the odor. (They didn't elaborate, and while I left messages Wednesday and Thursday, I didn't hear back.)
Republic's compost operation on Camp Adair Road also handles food waste, though not from Albany residences since the council turned down that option some time ago. I don't know whether food waste makes composting a smellier thing than it otherwise would be.
Odors from the landfill, not just from the compost center, waft across the countryside of northeast Benton County under certain conditions. When it's foggy, for example, or the wind is right, the whiff of gas from decomposing refuse can be noticed miles from the dump. The Benton County solid waste committee, or the county commissioners, or the Albany council, or all three, ought to inquire more deeply into what is being done to minimize the smell and then let the public know. (hh)
Postscript: I heard this morning (Friday, May 13) from Julie Jackson of Republic Services, who touched on some of the things the company is doing to get a handle on the odor problem at the compost yard. Among other things, they are experimenting with adding a solution to the yard debris grinding process, a product containing bacteria that feed on odor-causing substances. Also, they are testing different methods and frequencies of turning the material, and that may be a good solution. In addition, a pipe has been mounted atop the perimeter fence along the road frontage and all down the yard's east side. The pipe sprays an odor-eliminating liquid into the air when necessary. Jackson likened it to a "big Fabreze spray" and said the process was showing some promise. All this is costing "a lot," she said without going into detail, but it was worth it from the standpoint of being good neighbors.(hh)