Tualatin locals speak out against ‘putrid’ compost odor

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TUALATIN, Ore. (KOIN) —  “We moved out of pony ridge because the smell was so bad. I had to hold my four year old’s hair back while she threw up in our yard.”

“I feel like there is no oxygen in the air.”

“Diaper pail, putrid, revolting.”

Brett Hamilton is one of the Tualatin residents speaking out about a smell stemming from Grimm's fuel company. (KOIN)

Those are just some of the words to describe Tualatin residents used to describe the smell in the air they say come from a compost facility — Grimm’s Fuel Company — at least once a week. Those people spoke their concerns at a meeting led by METRO, who regulates the fuel company along with the Department of Environmental Quality. 

The DEQ said the company’s new permit will require Grimm’s to follow fire department height restrictions, which includes reducing the height of the compost to 40 feet by the end of the year and 25 feet in height, 150 feet in width and 250 feet in length. An independent company, looking to reduce the smell, could come with more restrictions, according to METRO. 

The DEQ, according to METRO, identified three violations during a February inspection at Grimm’s. They issued pre-enforcement notices for them, requiring corrective action, which Grimm’s is complying with. 

“We can put in a future license conditions that will be sustainable for Grimm’s operations going forward and will meet the concerns of the community,” said Ken Ray, a METRO spokesman. 

Brett Hamilton, a member of a community group looking to get rid of the smell, believes the only cure is to require Grimm’s to switch the way they compost. 

“As long as they have that anaerobic pile, order is going to be generated,” said Hamilton. “They have to get oxygen into all parts of their compost pile.”

Jake Grimm is the operation manager at the fuel company, a fourth-generation family company that has been in business since 1929 and at its Tualatin location since the mid 1970s. He isn’t convinced Hamilton’s oxygenated compost plan would work. 

“You need to spread out a larger area to compost the same amount of product,” Grimm said. “With that surface area does come odors.”

Currently tons of yard debris gets funneled through the fuel company’s lot, where it’ll sit in piles for 6 months. Grimm said he doesn’t know what the solution for everyone is, but he’s willing to try and find it.

“We have always been a neighborhood family business and we intend on staying that way,” Grimm said, “and we are going to do everything in our power.” 

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