Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
PLEASANT GROVE — It stinks.
It turns the stomach.
And it's allegedly costing local communities, the county and the state millions of dollars in lost revenue and potential development in what some call "Pungent Grove."
Determined to "Stop the Stench," a collection of concerned businessmen, irate residents and city officials joined forces Thursday to hold a rally at BMW of Pleasant Grove near I-15 and Pleasant Grove Blvd., where they thanked the wind for blowing and mitigating the consistently bad smells in the area.
"Every day citizens are saying, 'Enough is enough,'" said John Stevens, a local banker and planning commissioner for Pleasant Grove. "This isn't just a couple of people protecting their property rights.
"This affects everybody," Stevens said. "It not just Pleasant Grove's problem."
The nearby Timpanogos Special Service District has been blamed for the foul smells. The special service district, which conducts on-site composting, was sued last September by Pleasant Grove City, American Fork and other Utah community groups because of the smells it generates.
"There's a misconception that Pleasant Grove is opposed to the special service district. We're not," said the mayor of Pleasant Grove, Bruce Call, paraphrasing former President Bill Clinton. "It's the composting, stupid. That's what we're opposed to."
Call said the process can be likened to a bad neighbor who decides to make a disgusting soup of human waste and grass clippings in his backyard.
"No other responsible treatment plant composts on site," Call said.
"It's a process they could do elsewhere," said Pleasant Grove City Administrator Scott Darrington. "For the price of a snow cone (about $3 per household in the affected cities) we could move the process."
Bruce Sant, an economic development consultant, said estimated losses because of the foul smells over the next 20 years would come to about $251 million in sales tax, $60 million in state income tax, $58 million in property tax and another $20 million to Pleasant Grove City and Utah County in sales and revenue.
Jim Ferrin, a financial planner and owner of Synergy, said he has clients who question his wisdom in locating where it smells so badly. He said he was promised a fix three years ago, a fix he has yet to see happen.
"It's absolutely unfair," he said.
David Luna with Mortgage Educators said he has prospective clients who won't even discuss locating in or near Pleasant Grove because of the infamous odor.
"I can't lease my building space (at North Pointe Business Park north of the district)," said Mark Robinson.
Brady Brammer, an attorney with Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall and McCarthy, said they've discovered as his firm prepares to present its case for a $465 million lawsuit against the sewage treatment plant that the district has no authority to create a nuisance or violate property owners' rights.
Brammer said district officials anticipated problems and tried to get people to sign an odor easement agreement in 2001 when they were drying 1,000 metric tons of compost. Today the district is drying more than 26,000 dry metric tons annually, he says.
Darrington asked that people who have suffered "headaches, nausea, grief and/or mortification" to contact his firm and become part of the lawsuit scheduled to come to trial in the spring of 2014.
State Sen. John Valentine (District 14) said he's tried for years to resolve the stinky situation and believes the only way to prove that composting is the villain in the scenario is to take it off site for a year.
If it still smells, Valentine said it would be time to add a surcharge to customer bills to either pay for relocation (of the plant) or for adjusting the sewage operation.
Stevens said special service district officials have told him there isn't an odor problem they notice; it's too expensive to move the composting; and the plant was in place well ahead of the businesses who are complaining.
"We want Timpanogos Special Service District to get feedback," he said. "Call (their) number when you notice the smell: 801-756-5231."
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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