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Compost Facility Blamed For Strong Odors In The East Bay

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) -- An East Bay composting facility has been ordered to stop taking any more green waste shipments at  until it gets the smell under control.

People have been complaining about the smells coming from Republic Services in North Richmond for months.

The past year and a half haven't been great at the composting plant. There have been seven fires and a report of noxious odors. Now there is a cease and desist order.

But we spoke to a neighboring business that says the health department may be going after the wrong facility.

Arvin Montano lives in Richmond and said, "Either I'm not smelling it or I'm getting used to the smell."

Montano has lived within just a few miles of the landfill for 15 years.

From his driveway, you can't smell anything foul. He says when you're on the Richmond Parkway though, you definitely can smell a strong odor.

"Either you have to roll up your windows or you're going to smell the garbage," Montano said.

Marilyn Underwood is the environmental health director for Contra Costa County.

"The whole idea of the cease and desist was that we want them to take the material that's already on site and deal with that correctly," Underwood said.

She says a composting facility is more than just moving trash around - it's a biological manufacturing system and the West Contra Costa County landfill is doing it wrong.

Republic Services owns this facility and said, "As a good neighbor, we have been actively working toward upgrading our processing system to a state of the art method of managing organic material..."

Eric Bledsoe works next door to the landfill and he too thinks the health department has the wrong guy.

Bledsoe, the president of Electronic Innovations said, "I don't have problems with them; they manage the facility properly. The sanitary district next door -- the smells are disgusting and they don't do anything about it."

Bledsoe says the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has been out there at least 20 times.

He said, "They come in, they take the information, they go investigate it and then we don't hear anything else about it."

Republic Services owns two other composting facilities in California.

So now, the health department is hoping Republic Services can bring the compost material to one of their other locations or somewhere else.

The health department wants the big trucks that drive around the west and central part of the county to stop coming here.

But homeowners who lug their stuff here make up such a small percentage, that they don't mind if they keep doing what they've been doing.

The health department has gotten more than 400 complaints since September.

And besides the smell, many say they've experienced nausea, vomiting, throat irritation, and difficulty breathing.

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