Smelly dispute between compost facility and nearby residents calls for state to step in

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 9:18 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - “It’s sour. It smells like a cattle lot and spoiled food.” That’s how Roger Pike described the compost site about three-quarters of a mile up the road from his home in Horseshoe Lake.

Another resident said the only thing that smells worse than the recycled waste, is a colostomy bag, and collectively, a group of families from the neighborhood say they’ve had enough.

Many have written letters to Cass County officials complaining of a foul odor coming from the Soil Dynamics compost site.

“If I have friends or family come out here, I would be embarrassed for them to smell that,” said Dan Bissell.

But they’re not the only ones upset, Soil Dynamics Owner and President Andy Harpenau are equally as frustrated.

Harpenau said he’s reached out to residents directly in good faith to try and understand their issues and they never respond.

“There’s some folks down there, no matter what we do, they just don’t want us there,” said Harpenau, who added “We’re creating jobs. We’re doing good things. This compost is being applied all over town.”

Harpenau said he runs an honest business that keeps waste out of the landfill and follows all the rules. Pointing out that people should support recycling, especially since Cass County doesn’t have a landfill.

He also doesn’t dismiss the odor that composted yard waste, leaves and other items can create, but he does not believe it is the compost that creates the odor since he’s had the odor tested.

“The county has done hundreds and hundreds of odor samples down there and we’ve never come close to the threshold that’s in the county regulations now,” Harpenau stated.

He also believes Horseshoe residents are pointing the finger in the wrong direction. “There’s possibly some odor coming from their sewer systems down there. They live in a glass house and they’re throwing stones at me.”

Harpenau said the wells and septics in the sand-lake housing development that was built about sixty years ago, aren’t up to code, which could be causing groundwater contamination issues and contributing to the smell.

But residents don’t buy it.

”That’s a whole different issue. All he’s trying to do is intimidate people down here,” said resident Dan Bissell.

Families acknowledge the smell isn’t around all the time, but they say when it is, it’s unbearable.

The only thing both sides agree on is that the meter inspectors breathe through, to detect some of the odor is subjective and it’s why they both want the state to step in.

Harpenau filed a complaint with Cass County, he said his next move if nothing is done, will be to file a complaint with the Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy.

Residents also called out Cass Co. Zoning Administrator Mike Jensen whom they said stopped replying to their inquiries and instead forwarded them to Harpenau.

They pointed out that the compost site is also too close to their homes and not within compliance with County regulations.

Residents maintained the fact that they are not against composting at all, but if something cannot be done about the smell, they want to site to be moved.

This story is developing and 6-News will follow up with the county for more details.

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