‘Putrid’ odor brings Molalla hemp facility to court

Clackamas County

Residents say the scent comes and goes depending on the wind

MOLALLA, Ore. (KOIN) — People living in the town of Molalla are turning up their noses over an odd odor they claim is coming from a hemp processing facility.

Dozens of people gathered for a municipal court hearing on Tuesday night to listen to public testimony in the case against the Columbia Hemp Trading Company.

The facility, which opened in August 2019, processes hemp — a natural crop grown for its fibers. It does not contain the psychoactive properties of cannabis.

But in recent months, the City of Molalla has received numerous complaints about a bad smell.

“Hemp is a big cash crop but you cannot destroy a community like this,” said Dave Scott of Molalla. “Their business pollutes the air and the biggest community is five, six blocks down the road. It’s not fair, it’s not right.”

Accusers say the facility is wafting a scent akin to burning chemicals and rotten meat. They say it comes and goes in waves.

“The best way I can describe it is putrid sauerkraut,” said Molalla resident Jody Berg. “It has a metallic after taste so it lives in the back of your throat.”

Pat Torsen of Molalla, who first noticed the scent in November, said it smells like “chemical garbage burning.”

Others have said they can’t enjoy even the simplest of activities, like spending time outside.

“I can’t go outside or I will get physically ill,” said resident Jody Berg.

An attorney for the City of Molalla told KOIN 6 News the alleged culprit of the smell has not changed its methods.

“The city had sought voluntary compliance from the company,” said attorney Amy Lindgren. “Ultimately, we had to issue them a nuisance abatement notice. They then protested that notice and the hearing tonight was for the judge to decide.”

More than 50 people from the community packed the municipal court and conference room on Tuesday night.

Also in attendance were the owner, the operations manager and the attorney for Columbia Hemp Trading Company. But those many representatives caused some concerns.

“CHTC is represented by a firm,” said Lindgren. “They hadn’t considered, apparently, the ethical issues that can come up with presenting three parties.”

The judge ultimately decided to reschedule the hearing for March 17 at 6 p.m.

Those who had gathered for the hearing left disappointed and frustrated.

“In my eyes, it gives them another month to conduct business as usual,” said Scott.

Columbia Hemp Trading Company CEO Jacob Crabtree released the following statement:

“Columbia Hemp Trading Company is committed to working with all partners, including the City of Molalla to best serve Oregon farmers. As members of a rapidly-evolving industry which is creating new jobs and opportunities for our state, we are grateful to be part of the Molalla community and are making further investments in our facility to increase efficiency and reduce odors. 

Hemp is a natural, farm crop similar to wheat or hops and does not contain any of the psychoactive properties of cannabis. Any odors created by the processing of hemp do not pose any threat to public health.”

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