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Phoenix RV Park Residents Make Big Stink Over Mysterious Odor

RV park residents
(Photo by Phil Latzman - KJZZ)
From left to right, Desert's Edge RV Park Manager Saundra Bryn, residents Phyllis Younger, Robert Younger, John Schultz and Phoenix Metro RV Park Resident/Manager Diana Ellis.

A mysterious odor has one Valley neighborhood in a big stink.

A group of north Phoenix RV Park residents say their health and welfare is in danger after a recycling plant opened up nearby.

Saundra Bryn is the park manager at the Desert Edge RV in the Deer Valley section of Phoenix. It’s been here for 40 years.

“It’s spicy, it kind of burns in your nose. Um, it’s not a trash smell. It’s a composting smell,” Bryn said.

Whatever it is, you can’t help but notice the stench coming from the general direction of the recycling plant down the street.

Peering over the fence, there are several piles of tree and brush being composted into mulch. No waste products or garbage are evident, but the smell certainly is.

Back at the RV Park a block away, resident Phyllis Younger is waiting.

“Did you get a whiff of the smell? You go and get up in the morning like we did this morning to go do laundry and it’s like suffocating," she said.

Younger said the odor emanates from the Green Earth Waste Recycling plant and not only is it unpleasant, but also unhealthy.

“It’s hard for me, because I have COPD, to breathe," she said. "I come out the door, I can’t breathe. I have to do my inhalers to even get past it. “

Her husband Robert Younger said the reek is nothing like he’s ever experienced, here or elsewhere.  

“It is just bad," he said. "I mean, I’ve been stationed overseas in the Far East and I guarantee you this place outdoes the smells that we had over there. Rotten plants, open sewers and what have you, but this, on a scale of 1 to 10, compared to that stuff this is about a 12.”

Also nearby is a dump, run by the company Waste Management.

But Diana Ellis, a resident and the manager of the neighboring Phoenix Metro RV Park, said the overwhelming waft didn’t show up until more recently, when the recycling plant did.

“I’ve lived in this two-block radius for the past 18 years and never did I ever smell anything coming out of the Waste Management plant over there," she said. "But ever since this place has opened up, the smell; (I’m) suffering with burning, hurting, itching eyes, sneezing.”

Ellis said the RV parks hold about 200 vehicles, most of them seasonal, and that their wintertime clients aren’t returning because of the putrid smell.

“Who would expect that a recycling (and) mulching plant would cause as many issues as it has," she said. "And my residents coming to me and saying if something isn’t done about that, we won’t come back.”

The complaints by local residents and businesses led to the City of Phoenix denying a three-year use permit for Green Earth in July. But the plant operators submitted an appeal denying it emits hazardous odors, dust or smoke and has no negative effects on air quality.

“What we process is green waste," said Mike Espinoza, the owner of the facility. "We deal with pine chips that come from Snowflake. We deal with green waste that comes out of the Valley. It’s strictly green waste.”

Espinoza said his composted mulch is sold to the Scott’s company, which has certified it as safe, and that the plant is doing a service to the environment by removing mulch from landfills.

“It’s not like I’m saying give us your manure or give us your food waste because those are things that will rot and create an odor," he said. "This is green waste, these are pine chips, pine cones and pine needles, things that don’t necessarily have an odor. We’re being classified as someone who is producing a toxic product.”   

He maintains that every local government agency that has investigated his plant has found nothing harmful.

“If  you look at it, there’s Waste Management, there’s my company, there’s all these other industrial companies and then plotted in the middle of that, there’s an RV park," he said. "So, it doesn’t look to me like my company is out of place. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have anything to do with the zoning, the city did.”

“We’re fulltime RV’ers, so yeah, I could get up and move, but why should I?" Resident Bob Younger said. "I mean, I was here before that place was. I mean, everyone was here before that place was. To me, I think they’re trying to force us out.”

Meanwhile, mulching operations at the facility are continuing until another hearing on the matter Sept. 3. That’s when the city will decide whether to shut down the plant permanently or let it continue to operate.  

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.