Big stink in Cincinnati: Neighbors hold noses while composter, city pass blame for $300K cleanup

CINCINNATI - It's smelly and may cost $300,000 to clean up -- the Winton Hills composting site that got too big too fast.

Until a few months ago, the land behind the locked fence at 5656 Este Ave. used to be Compost Cincy. The city had run a landfill there for years before leasing the space.

Now, the city has shut the business down, leaving tons of uncomposted material to clean up.

It also left a lot of finger pointing and a foul smell that overwhelms the neighborhood.

"Especially on some hot days, it gets really rank around here," says Charles Mack, who lives across the street.  "I mean, I've got central air in my house and even that doesn't filter out the smell."

The city estimates it will take about three to four months to rearrange the material at the site to the point where it is proper compost that can be removed.

"This is a substantial amount of material," said Larry Falkin, who heads the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability. "There's about 40,000 cubic yards of unfinished compost at this site."

But Compost Cincy owner Grant Gibson says that figure is way too high.

"They're claiming that there's two feet of waste spread across the entire property. That's not accurate. I'd say probably 5,000 to 6,000 yards of material," Gibson said.

Falkin disagrees.

"They designed their operation for about 20,000 tons a year," he said. "I think at their peak they were receiving a rate more like 80,000 tons a year. For the volume of waste they ended up with, they were underdesigned, and so it's not surprising that they ended up with odor issues."

Gibson says he wanted to extend the job into May due to the harsh winter but the city pulled the plug at the end of February.

"When they asked us to relocate," Gibson said, "we said, 'OK, we'll need time and we'll need some help.' Did they give us the necessary time? Absolutely not -- because siting another compost facility is a very long and tedious process."

A public meeting on the issue is set for next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Elmwood Place village hall.



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