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Phoenix RV Park Residents Get Little Relief From Pervasive Stink

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.

Six months ago in the 100-degree plus sweltering August heat, the smell of rotting composting materials was overwhelming.

We met Diana Ellis and Phyllis Younger at the Desert’s Edge RV Parkin Deer Valley, in far north Phoenix.

Ellis described the effects of the stench as “burning and hurting,” causing her to sneeze and making her eyes itch.

Younger said just walking outside to do laundry “the odor was suffocating.”

Six months later and many degrees cooler, the smell is more tolerable, the machines have stopped operating at the Green Earth Recycling plant across the street, but the piles remain and the problem hasn’t gone away either.

“Some of it has and some of it hasn’t. I still get headaches and I still cough like a Stevedore when that smell gets around,” Younger said.

“There are days when there is horrendous odor, when the wind is blowing, especially from the south, and it blows it up ... it’s in the air,” Ellis said. “You can see it, you can smell it, you can taste.”

Following a series of complaints and an investigation, the city of Phoenix ordered the plant closed, and for operations to cease by Dec. 31.

Ellis, a resident and the manager of the neighboring Phoenix Metro RV Park, said operators of the plant initially ignored the city’s orders, and are now dragging their feet on cleaning up the rotting compost remains.

“I feel like they’ve set deadlines, overwritten, given more time for whatever reason unknown to me. The same thing continues to happen," Ellis said. “Then Green Earth just up and walks away and all those piles are still sitting there.”

Saundra Bryn, who manages the Desert’s Edge RV Park and has spearheaded efforts against the recycling plant, said there’s been a lot of talk but not a lot of action from the city.

“Because the city of Phoenix has not been enforcing its own regulations and because they have left the materials on site, it’s not finished,” said Bryn.

According to Councilwoman Thelda Williams, they’re doing their best.

She represents the district on the Phoenix City Council and sent a letter to City Manager Ed Zuercher last month asking for immediate action and swift enforcement claiming the plant’s owners are not complying with orders to vacate and remediate.

“Stall tactics as far as I’m concerned. Nothing has been removed. Nothing has changed." Williams said the owners will pay the price in the form of fines.

Mike Espinoza is Green Earth’s owner. He claimed it was bad press, not a bad smell that shut them down. “Negative publicity from radio stations, TV, newspapers, whatever, forced us out of that facility”

Espinoza contends the city’s order makes it impossible for him to clean up the mess.

“Green Earth is not authorized or permitted to haul any of that material out of there," he said. "They’re saying you have three months to clear two and a half years of material that came in? C’mon, that ain’t gonna happen.”

Williams said Espinoza is not being truthful.

“He had the responsibility. He owns the property. The owners did not control the dust or the odor,” Williams said.

Espinoza maintains the odor has not been found to be hazardous and wasn’t even coming from his plant — but from the nearby Waste Management Facility. Williams said that isn’t true.

In the meantime, at nearby Desert’s Edge, Phyllis Younger said the city doesn’t care about their plight.

“We’re the ones suffering. They’re not. They’re sitting up there in their posh little houses, not smelling it. We’re the ones smelling it. We live here permanently,” Younger said.

Councilwoman Williams said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I don’t care where you live. You’re just a valuable person in the city of Phoenix. Unfortunately, when you have someone who is contrary to following the regulations, stuff like this happens," Williams said.

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.