ELLENSBURG, Wash. — PacifiClean Environmental does not plan to build a composting facility on 230 acres on the north side of Vantage Highway, and is still looking at a number of possible sites, company officials said.
James Rivard, a principal with SRM Development of Spokane and with PacifiClean Environmental, said a Vantage Highway site about 11 miles east of Ellensburg is no longer being considered as a possible location. It was one of several sites the company has been studying in and outside Kittitas County, he said.
He said the company’s policy is to not comment publicly on a possible site until the firm has formally submitted applications for permits to county government.
“However, the site that we understand a group has identified as one we’re reviewing is a site (the company) is currently not pursuing,” Rivard said.
Rivard declined to comment further, other than to say since the firm began to search for a site in the region it has looked at or received information on more than 15 locations.
Rural property owners in the Parke Creek area east of Ellensburg organized a citizens’ group to protest the Vantage Highway location. A grass-roots group called County Residents Against PacifiClean had more than 50 people show up at a neighborhood gathering last week, according to group secretary Gayl Curtiss.
“We’re not mad at PacifiClean ... We believe this is a totally wrong place for it,” Curtiss said Friday. “The more we look into the (commercial composting) industry the more distressed we are about what it can do to hurt the well-being and health of our community.”
PacifiClean in late March withdrew its application to build a compost plant in the Elk Heights area saying it would review alternative sites instead.
The company’s withdrawal came after a citizens’ opposition group called KittitasClean mounted a campaign against the firm’s initial site off Thorp Prairie Road, about 15 miles northwest of Ellensburg and about eight miles southeast of Cle Elum.
PacifiClean wants to build a facility to process food, yard waste and municipal sewer biosolids and other waste materials into commercial-grade compost. It estimated the company’s total investment at the Elk Heights site could have be up to $35 million.
About 80 percent of the compostable waste would come from Puget Sound, with the most from areas within the city of Seattle. Seattle has entered into a contract with PacifiClean for the company to take much of its compostable waste starting in 2014.
PacifiClean is narrowing its review and study to four or five main sites inside and outside Kittitas County, according to PacifiClean’s general manager Larry Condon.
Work to revaluate each site is ongoing, Condon said, and he couldn’t say when another site would be selected or when the company would file for a development permit.
He said the company enters into an agreement with owners of each site to purchase property if the company successfully gains a permit to construct and operate the compost facility.
Condon said it was disappointing to him to learn that neighbors were banding together against a possible site even before evaluations were done and a site selected.
“There’s been no firm decisions made on any of these locations,” Condon said.
“They (concerned property owners in the Parke Creek area) should have contacted us and we could have gladly explained to them where we were at in this process. We always want to be a good neighbor in all this.”
Curtiss, a spokesperson for the citizens’ group, said they learned from the owner of the Vantage Highway site about PacifiClean’s interest in his property.
An initial neighborhood meeting drew a few people, but a mid-April session attracted more.
After the word got out about PacifiClean’s interest in the Vantage Highway site via emails, Facebook and other social media, interest and concerns took off, Curtiss said.
“We moved out here, bought property and invested in homes for the peace and quiet and the great natural beauty,” Curtiss said. “We would have never thought, now could we have imagined that a huge, industrial composting company could locate into our community.”
Curtiss estimated there were about 200 homesites within a two-mile radius area of the site, and nearly 90 have permanent residents living there.
“It’s hard for us to understand how they could have ever imagined this could be a good location given those who live out here and the sensitive shrub-steppe environment,” Curtiss said.