Seattle takes a deep breath and braces for another putrid spring
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Dispatches, May 1998
Stepping onto the porch of his home one morning last spring, State Representative Brian Thomas leaned back in his slippers, inhaled the fresh air, and gagged uncontrollably on the stench wafting on the breeze. “It was the worst smell you can
An olfactory affront of this magnitude is typically tied to noxious industries like, say, corporate hog farming. But the smell that invaded Thomas’s neighborhood a year ago — and that will probably soon stage a malodorous reprise, now that springtime is upon the Pacific Northwest — has a more benign source: compulsive composting. No city in America takes mulch as
As local composting operations bent to the task of processing the extra ordure, an evil miasma descended over the city. Plant operators responded by cranking up high-tech filtration systems and spraying industrial-strength perfume powder fashioned from enzymes and dehydrated vinegar. Alas, it was a losing battle. By the end of the summer, the King County pollution-control hot
If an ammended version of the bill passes next year (the 1997 version stalled in committee), it could impose yet another layer of irony onto an already intoxicating subject. With even fewer plants to handle the waste, things seem bound to get smellier before they get better. “People in Seattle love their compost,” says Thomas, shooting a wary glance in the direction of his
Illustration by David Miller