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City of Denver proposes changes to odor laws

Posted: 11:37 PM, Mar 03, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-04 07:38:58Z

When the wind blows just right in some North Denver neighborhoods, the odor is overpowering.

"On a good day, it just smells like dog food," said Robin Reichhardt, who lives in Denver's Swansea neighborhood. "We have a unique mix of marijuana, dog food, meat rendering, wastewater treatment and oil refinery."

Odors have been a chronic issue in the industrial corridor, amplified lately by a high concentration of marijuana grow houses .

Gregg Thomas, the head of Denver Environmental Health's (DEH) Environmental Quality Division said odor was identified as a top priority of the community in the 2014 Globeville and Elyria Swansea Health Impact Assessment.

According to DEH, a recent door-to-door survey of residents from the Globeville and Elyria/Swansea areas, found that more than 80 percent of respondents noticed a smell that affects their quality of life when at home, and almost 90 percent said their lives would be better if odors in their neighborhood were reduced.

Currently, DEH states that "a disproportional amount of these complaints originate from lower income neighborhoods located in mixed use areas." 

"And as redevelopment continues to move North along Brighton Blvd. and eventually into the National Western Center area, this isn’t something that is just going to magically go away," said Thomas. "As people move in, they are going to start to experience these odors, and they are going to demand something is done. 

Denver's Department of Environmental Health is responsible for regulating nuisance odors, and the department is proposing changes to Denver’s odor ordinance.

These proposed changes include:

  • Who can complain – Business owners and employees, in addition to residents, would be able to file formal complaints.
  • Extend complaint time period – The time period within which five complaints must be received to trigger enforcement would be lengthened from 12 hours to 30 days.
  • Specific industries – Businesses within certain industry types (for example: pet food manufacturing, marijuana grow facilities, rendering plants, asphalt shingle manufacturing, sewage treatment facilities) would be automatically required to develop and submit an odor control plan for approval by Denver’s Environmental Health.
  • Odor control plan requirement – Facilities that exceed the complaint or dilution threshold standards, or fall within specific industry types, would be required to develop an odor control plan instead of receiving a citation.

"The changes to the odor ordinance don't mean that the odors will be zero," said Thomas. "It's that odors will be minimized to the best extent practical."

Thomas said odor control plans would vary from industry to industry and would be based upon best practices for that industry. 

Neighbors aren't sure it's enough to really make a change.

"It seems kind of like a band-aid to me," said Reichhardt. "A call, a slap on the wrist. It doesn't add up to me as something that's going to have a substantial change."

Thomas said they plan to meet with stakeholders in the coming months and to brief the city council in April.

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