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Originally published March 25, 2013 at 9:33 PM | Page modified March 25, 2013 at 9:34 PM

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Seattle delays vote on Kittitas County compost contract

The Seattle City Council delayed a vote to send Seattle’s food and yard waste east to a proposed new plant.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seattle City Council on Monday put off approving a contract with a company that would ship waste to Kittitas County, adding uncertainty as to where Seattle will dump its food and yard waste next year.

A few weeks ago, the city’s $4 million-a-year deal with Pacifi­Clean Environmental looked like a sure thing, but a group of Cle Elum-area residents raised concerns about pollution and odor, prompting Seattle council members to question whether it’s right for the city to dump its waste in other communities.

“Frankly, I’m very concerned about what our Kittitas County neighbors have told us and I’m actually embarrassed that we are sending to you material that you do not relish,” Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said.

In the days leading up to the council’s vote, Pacifi­Clean announced it would abandon its original site for a compost plant, in a scenic area called Elk Heights. Principal Jim Rivard said the company has found some remote sites approved for agriculture or industrial uses that “should not cause the same concerns regarding odor and fire.”

Since 2001, when Seattle started collecting yard waste, it has sent its organic garbage to Cedar Grove’s two facilities in Maple Valley or Everett. Cedar Grove’s latest contract expires next March, and the company did not bid on Seattle’s compost.

Compost is a green industry and something Seattle has gone to great lengths to encourage. But as the waste stream — especially smelly food waste — has increased, Cedar Grove has faced odor complaints, air-quality fines and several lawsuits.

Cedar Grove and Pacifi­Clean share some of the same investors, and Cedar Grove served as a consultant, helping Pacifi­Clean with its bid on Seattle’s contract, said Susan Thoman, Cedar Grove director of public affairs.

PacifiClean wants to truck 60 percent of Seattle’s food and yard waste over Snoqualmie Pass to Central Washington. The company plans to use the latest technology to create compost there, where the finished product would be near farms that could use it.

The company’s original proposed site raised so many questions that Kittitas County’s top planning official gave it a slim chance of being approved. Seattle already sends its garbage by train to a landfill in Oregon, and it’s hard to find a place to make compost inside the urban area, said Seattle City Council President Sally Clark.

Five council members voted for delaying a vote, while four — Jean Godden, Richard Conlin, Mike O’Brien and Tim Burgess — voted against delaying a vote and wanted to go ahead with the contract Monday.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @EmilyHeffter

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