San Luis Obispo County supervisors have approved a food and green waste processing plant south of San Luis Obispo, despite concerns from nearby residents and business owners about odors, noise and other issues.
The supervisors voted unanimously to deny an appeal of an Aug. 25 county Planning Commission decision to allow construction and operation of an anaerobic digestion plant at 4388 Old Santa Fe Road, near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
The applicant, Hitachi Zosen Inova USA LLC, will remodel a 13,128-square-foot warehouse and build a 36,000-square-foot addition for a processing plant. It will process food and green waste from the Waste Connections service area — which stretches from Cambria to Nipomo, not including Atascadero and Paso Robles — and then use the methane emitted from the compost to produce energy.
The supervisors had discussed the project in October but delayed a decision for a month to give concerned residents more time to research the proposal.
Those residents, including four people who had appealed the project to the supervisors, raised additional concerns Tuesday, including the project’s location, the emissions it could generate and the impact that adding more waste trucks would have on Buckley Road. The appellants had also urged an environmental impact report be prepared for the project.
“There are people working in that vicinity, and as such I don’t believe it’s appropriate to put a plant such as this in that location,” said Babak Naficy, an attorney representing the appellants. “If you were to go to a focused EIR, one of the issues you would discuss would be alternative (locations), which I think would be appropriate in this situation.”
Mike Kyle, owner of CT International on Santa Fe Road and one of the appellants, also noted that he has a responsibility to provide a safe and clean environment for more than 120 employees.
“Is this a safe and clean environment?” Kyle said. “Because I think this is very much a health and safety issue.”
Representatives of Hitachi Zosen Inova tried to assure supervisors, meanwhile, that the plant’s state-of-the-art technology would allow it to create renewable power without causing odors or other problems for the public.
“If something goes wrong … we would take a $20 million facility and shut it down,” said Carol Florence, principal and planner with Oasis Associates. “We’re willing to take that risk, but I can assure you that is not going to happen.”
The anaerobic digestion process would take place in an enclosed facility, which would be kept at negative pressure to pull in outside air when the doors open and prevent odors from escaping.
Several supervisors noted the project will help the county meet mandates in state legislation that require local jurisdictions to implement an organic waste recycling program.
“It’s still hard for me to believe that there isn’t going to be any smell,” Supervisor Lynn Compton said. “But I do think the state is pushing me this way.”