As attractive an idea as it is from a "green" perspective, composting operations just really seem to stink.
West Rifle residents and businesses will be able to breath cleaner air sometime soon, after the city of Rifle clears out the tons of compost material next to its wastewater treatment plant.
Operator Jim Duke was served an eviction notice by the city on Friday, after his neighbors complained long and loudly to the city about the strong odors they had been subjected to ever since our weather became unseasonably warm, windy and dry this spring.
A noble goal - keeping out of the landfill waste material that can be used in a positive way after it decomposes - was easily overshadowed by residents and business customers who felt sick every time they drew a breath of air. One resident said the smell was even in car air conditioning, so it went wherever they went.
West Rifle resident and business owner Judy Hewitt became very angry toward the City Council at its May 6 meeting, using harsh language and stalking out of the room when the council once again promised to do what it could, but urged patience.
Perhaps ironically, longtime Rifle landlord Gil Frontella then suggested the city take the action it did, saying he had done so to tenants countless times.
Duke tried his best, and Dick Hewitt voiced that opinion several times during a phone interview, but the site was really doomed from the start. It's just much too close to anyone, as Hewitt and his neighbors often told everyone they knew.
The city argued it wasn't the site, it was the food and grease waste Duke was - legally - allowed to accept that caused the most offensive odors.
Talking to Duke over the last several months, it's obvious to me he knows his compost and the process waste material goes through to become something useful again. He's done it from Aspen to Carbondale to Glenwood Springs to Rifle over the last two decades, although he has moved down the valley each time. Coincidence that the area has rapidly grown in the same direction over the same time period?
Hewitt wished no financial hardships on Duke, or his wife, Kathy, due to the odor problem and the move by the city to shut him down. I heartily second that notion and hope he can find a rewarding occupation, if it doesn't continue to be in the compost business.
Whether or not the city wants to find a way to operate a compost site that doesn't cause odor complaints or people to lock their doors and windows remains to be seen. They've got a bad taste in their mouths, not mention a bad smell, to deal with first.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of the Rifle Citizen Telegram.