West Valley City files lawsuit against waste company over bad smell that has plagued the town

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The E.T. Technologies treatment facility is shown at 6030 California Ave., Salt Lake City, next to the landfill in 2018.

In West Valley City, there’s an “intolerable odor of human feces mixed with industrial waste” that’s so strong it has led some residents to limit their time outside and has hindered efforts to bring economic development to the area.

City leaders say they’ve tried to abate the stench with the company they believe is responsible for it: E.T. Technologies, a waste-processing site located adjacent to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill and approximately 1 mile from West Valley City’s border.

But after years of what it describes as unsuccessful efforts, the city filed a lawsuit Monday seeking at least $300,000 in damages and a court order that the company must abate the “impure,” “foul” and “unwholesome” smell.

“The city and its citizens obtain little or no benefit from ETT’s operation of the [soils regeneration site] next to the city, but inequitably bear the substantial burden of injuries” caused by it, the lawsuit states.

The litigation, filed Monday in 3rd District Court, alleges that the company has created a “public and private nuisance” and that its operations violate environmental and health laws designed to protect the public “from waste management odors, infectious pathogens, disease vectors such as rodents and flies” and other contaminants.

E.T. Technologies did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit Monday night.

The company, which has operated a soil regeneration operation at its current site since 1984, charges waste generators a fee for dumping liquid and nonhazardous industrial wastes, such as solid and liquid industrial process wastes, auto-shop waste and used restaurant grease, according to the lawsuit. Afterward, West Valley City alleges that the company spreads raw sewage sludge over the waste as part of its process to create “regenerated soil.”

E.T. Technology claims it has taken “the steps that are feasible” to reduce the odor of its operations, including installing a “misting system” at its fence line, according to the lawsuit. But the city alleges those actions have not meaningfully reduced the order and that the suit is necessary to “protect the city and its citizens” from the stench.

After years of complaints, West Valley City launched a campaign in late 2017 urging residents to “smell something, say something."

As of September 2018, the city had received more than 200 complaints, with 30% of residents saying the smell had caused them to consider moving, while more than 50% said it had kept them from enjoying their yard, patio, driveway, pool or balcony. One woman even told The Salt Lake Tribune she’d moved from West Valley City to Taylorsville in part to escape the assault on her senses.

In 2019, the city received at least 244 complaints about the smell, the majority of which occurred during the warm weather months, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the impacts on residents, the city alleges it has “suffered special damages different from those of the society at large as a result of the public nuisance created by the [soils regeneration site] odor.”

Those include impacts to the use of public spaces owned and maintained by the city, to efforts to attract economic development and the increased response and costs of the city’s public relations efforts, as well as citizen engagement projects relating specifically to addressing the odor, the lawsuit states.