ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Ellsworth City Council on Monday gave a local composting company 90 days to address complaints of odors consistently emanating from its operation site on Industrial Road.

Abutting property owners have said that the smell coming from Maine Organics is constant, and that the composting piles have attracted birds and rats to the commercial neighborhood.

The issue was brought before the council last winter and, though the company has tried to reduce the smell, the problem has not gone away. Councilor Steve O’Halloran said abutting property owners stopped contacting the city because they felt their complaints were being ignored.

“It’s not fair to the taxpayers [in the neighborhood],” O’Halloran said during Monday’s council meeting. “For the last year, there has been no change.”

Lori Roberts, the city’s code enforcement officer, said she has gone to the site to check on the smell and, on some visits, hasn’t detected any odor. She said the owner, Josh Wellman, has adopted flexible operating hours so that the compost piles often are disturbed on weekends, instead of during weekday business hours. They also don’t disturb the piles when the wind is blowing toward his neighbors. She also said Wellman tried discharging a cannon a few times to try to scare the birds away.

“This is a state licensed facility,” Roberts said. “All I can do is charge fines.”

Wellman said he hasn’t received any complaints since July, but that he understands his neighbors’ concerns. There will be periodic smells coming from the composting yard when compost material is delivered and when the piles are turned over, he said, but the smell should not be constant.

“We’re on it and we’re fixing it,” Wellman said. He said he should be able to abate the smell in a few months, if the city will give him time to try different measures.

Glenn Moshier, the city manager, said that Ellsworth has been reluctant to issue fines because Wellman has been receptive to trying new things, such as using clean wood chips in his compost piles. He said neighbors should be contacting the Maine Department of Environmental Protection with complaints, because only the state agency can impose operating restrictions on Maine Organics.

Kevin Wallace, who owns an abutting moving and storage company, said he’s growing impatient with the lack of a solution. He said he is considering moving his business out of Ellsworth because of the constant smell at his business.

“I’ve been here 40 years. I’m there every day,” Wallace said. “I’m at a point where I don’t know what to do.”

Without taking a vote, the council agreed Wellman should continue working with the code enforcement office to try to fix the problem and that Roberts would report back to the council after 90 days.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....