South Salt Lake approves limits on compost storage
South Salt Lake • A week after firefighters battled two blazes at a mulch plant, the City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an ordinance that limits the outdoor storage of wood chips and associated materials.
The council voted 5-0 for the new requirements, which apply to all businesses in South Salt Lake that store more than 3,600 cubic feet of wood chips or compost at any one time.
Under the ordinance, a business can store no more than 510,000 cubic feet of combustible waste material and the piles of the product cannot exceed 20 feet in height, 150 feet in width and 170 feet in length. The distance between piles must be at least 30 feet and the piles cannot be within 76 feet of a property line.
In addition, the piles must be wetted regularly to keep materials from drying out. A fine of $1,000 a day can be imposed for each day that a violation occurs or continues to occur.
The council vote was prompted by two recent fires at Diamond Tree Experts at 3645 S. 500 West, on July 3 and July 10. The second one was much larger than the first, burning a 60-foot high, roughly acre-wide pile of compost and spreading to two adjacent buildings.
Fire investigators says the blazes appear to have been caused by spontaneous combustion, caused by a combination of recent hot, dry weather and the heat naturally generated within the pile by the composting process. The compost pile that had burned has since been reduced to less than half its size, according to James Tracy, Diamond Tree's attorney.
The changes are not enough for some surrounding business owners and residents, who complained about debris and bad odors coming from Diamond Tree and the increases in their insurance premiums because of the fire danger. Several said Diamond Tree has worked to alleviate the problems but that it does not belong in the neighborhood.
Diamond Tree was given a business license in January 2006 because it met the requirements at the time for light industrial zoning, according to South Salt Lake officials. City code has changed since then, he said, but Diamond Tree is grandfathered in. Diamond Tree will still be able to operate at its current site under the new ordinance.
Steve Getz, owner of American West Analytical Laboratories, said he is still assessing the damage his building sustained from the fire, but estimates it was between $2 million and $4 million. He said the company might lose its fire insurance, which means it won't be able to continue to operate.
Kelly Steele, chief fun officer of The Warehouse Trampoline Park, said the smell from Diamond Tree is affecting her business.
"People do come into our business plugging their nose," said "We're trying to keep a family fun and fitness business going. We have well over a million dollars invested in our business."
Sharon Opferman, owner of Camp Bow Wow, which offers dog day care and overnight boarding, said that "the smell is horrendous" and the compost draws flies.
Others said they are bothered by the debris and dust from Diamond Tree. Neighborhood resident Edna Pierce said she sweeps 500 West every week because so much debris piles up.
But Trent Van Dam, Diamond Tree owner, said the wind will blow dust and debris from every business.
"It's not just my facility," he said.
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