For years, “the smell” afflicted northwestern West Valley City.
Residents knew that on particularly hot, windy or rainy days, they had to shut their doors and windows so the overpowering feces stench wouldn’t sneak in.
Officials identified the source: E.T. Technologies, an open-air waste-processing site next to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill and about a mile from West Valley City’s border.
Now, two years after West Valley City sued the company, both parties have reached a settlement. E.T. Technologies is set to cease operations within five years.
So why the wait?
“We could spend a whole lot more time fighting this legally. These lawsuits could drag on for years, and they do need some time to close up operations,” City Manager Wayne Pyle said. “We figured, at the end, the five years was kind of a good compromise. We do hope that they will find a way to finish it up anyway sooner.”
In the meantime, residents at least can expect the smell — described by the city as “impure,” “foul” and “unwholesome” — not to worsen. Under the deal, E.T. Technologies can’t expand operations and must keep in place the same efforts to mask the odor.
E.T. Technologies declined to comment Monday. But the soils regeneration company, in business at its current site since 1984, previously confirmed the settlement to FOX 13, a content-sharing partner with The Salt Lake Tribune.
The settlement also indicates that E.T. Technologies would pay $750,000 to West Valley City over the next five years. This amount is more than double the $300,000 the city sought in monetary damages in the 2020 suit.
“We worked with them for a long time. And I have to say that the local management of the facility did try to do different things. And I think it was a sincere effort to get the smell to stop,” Pyle said. “It just didn’t work.”
In the lawsuit, the city cited that the odor of human feces mixed with industrial waste “significantly interferes with use and enjoyment of the city’s public spaces, as well as other property belonging to the city’s citizens.” The city also said that the stench “negatively impacts the city’s ability to retain and attract economic development.”
Though the company invested in equipment and chemicals to mitigate the odor, the efforts did not control the stink and some residents considered it a major annoyance. At least one family moved to Taylorsville to avoid it.
West Valley City dismissed the lawsuit after reaching the accord. “It’s not behind us yet,” Pyle said, “but we have a final resolution in sight.”
Some residents celebrated the agreement. For others, though, a possible five-year wait still looks too distant.
“Seems like an awfully long time to stop business as usual,” said Lindie Beaudoin, who lives on the city’s west side. “I thought it’s good that they came up with an agreement, but I think that West Valley got a short end of the stick.”
The smell, which she describes as similar to “rotten boiled eggs,” doesn’t usually bother her unless it’s a rainy day. But she still worries about her health.
“My concern isn’t so much the odor. I’ve adapted to it,” Beaudoin said. “My concern is what is being excreted into the air. What are we breathing?”
But whether E.T. Technologies’ operations pose a health risk is undetermined, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for Salt Lake County Health Department. The county could not determine that the source of the odor was E.T. Technologies either.
“We have no evidence that odors cause a significant health concern. They can be an annoyance, certainly. But they are subjective,” Rupp said. “Depending on what’s causing an odor, there could be other things in the air that are a health concern. But in this particular case, it seems to just be a bad smell and not a source of poor health.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.