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Eugene Weekly : News : 05.18.06

What's That Stink?

Top odor sources in Lane County


Ever smelled something funky in Lane County's air? A sulphurous waft in West Eugene, a stanky stench in Springfield?

Yep, there are some disconcerting odors out there, and they tend to be especially bad when the air gets stagnant (which happens from time to time in our little valley). Luckily, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) has been keeping a database of odor complaints from across the county. Below, we list the industrial stinks that have prompted the most calls since 2000. Complaint numbers have a small margin of error due to uncertainties in LRAPA's system.

Some of the stinks, like the mulchy odor emitted from Rexius Forest By-Products, are pungent but not necessarily unhealthy to breathe. Others, like the chemical vapors from J.H. Baxter wood treatment facility, may contain hazardous air pollutants. But because LRAPA does not keep an air emissions inventory, it's difficult to make any claims about which odors are dangerous and which are simply smelly. The Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know database (www.ci.eugene.or.us/toxics)offers the most detailed inventory of air emissions from local businesses.

What to do if a stink's got ya down? For one, call LRAPA's 24-hour complaint hotline at 726-1930. Be sure to leave your name, address, a description of the odor and where you think it's coming from.

Secondly, if the odor is persistent, consider asking about LRAPA's nuisance rule. Under a 2001 agency ordinance, LRAPA can penalize individuals and businesses whose air contaminants cause a "nuisance," defined as an interference with another's "use and enjoyment of real property."

But the nuisance rule is tougher on paper than it is in practice. Despite more than 2,000 complaints about J.H. Baxter's odors since 2000, LRAPA has not penalized the company under the nuisance rule. LRAPA administrators say that penalties are unwarranted as long as the company complies with a "Best Works Practices Agreement" to reduce odors.

LRAPA staff were very cooperative in providing and verifying these numbers, but spokeswoman Kim Metzler cautioned against drawing over-broad conclusions. "Odor complaints are often difficult to track or verify because they tend to be transient," she stated by email. "It's often difficult to confirm or verify the source."



Top LRAPA odor complaints from Jan. 1, 2000-May 8, 2006

J.H. BAXTER (wood treatment), 85 Baxter St., Eugene, 2,040 complaints

MONACO COACH (RV manufacturing), 91320 Coburg Industrial Way, Coburg, 1,037 complaints

MCFARLAND CASCADE (poles/lumber), 90049 Hwy 99 N., 69 complaints

WEYERHAEUSER Pulp/Paper/Containerboard Mill, 785 N. 42nd St., Springfield, 55 complaints

REXIUS FORESTBY-PRODUCTS, 1300 Bailey Hill Rd., Eugene, 30 complaints

AUTO PAINTING (various sources) 28 complaints

COFFEE ROASTERS (various sources) 12 complaints

FOSTER FARMS (chicken processing plant), 33464 E. West Lane, Creswell, 11 complaints

HEXION SPECIALTY CHEMICALS (formerly Borden Chemicals), 470 S. Second St., Springfield 11 complaints

COUNTRY COACH (RV manufacturing), 135 E. First Ave., Junction City, 10 complaints

BARTELL'S MEATPACKAGING, Veneta/W. 11th, 8 complaints

LANE FORESTPRODUCTS, 2111 Prairie Rd., Eugene, 6 complaints

LRAPA 24-hour complaint line: 726-1930