McKenna on KIRO: Odors that violate your property rights

KIRO 97.3 host Dave Ross asked Rob about a lawsuit by a Marysville man over compost odors. Attorneys for James Moffat alleged that smells from Cedar Grove’s composting facility in Everett interfered with his enjoyment of his property. A Snohomish County jury found in favor of Cedar Grove earlier this month.

Dave Ross: “Somebody still has to be held responsible, right? If a private property owner has to be able to establish the exact weather conditions that caused this, nobody would ever be able to win such a lawsuit. And yet, their property would still be useless to them, and certainly nobody would want to buy it.”

Rob McKenna: “Well, this raises the age-old philosophical question: If compost is rotting in the forest but there’s no one there to smell it, is it still stinky?

“If you can show your property value is diminished – particularly if you can show that the company running the facility is violating clean air laws and regulations – I think you’ve got a pretty strong case. But apparently this one plaintiff wasn’t able to isolate the odor to Cedar Grove, or how much of the odor was coming from them.

“It is a little bit like noise, too – the farther away you get from the source, the more mixed it becomes. How do you assign liability to one company if you can’t somehow quantify how much of the problem is their responsibility as opposed to the other facilities?”

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