Lease canceled after compost complaints

The area's only composting operator is losing its lease because neighbors have complained about foul odors wafting from the south valley site.

Las Vegas Paving executives decided to not renew A1 Organics' lease, giving the Colorado-based company until Dec. 1 to move from the site where it has done composting for several years on South Jones Boulevard.

"I'm very happy about it," said Ken Stern, who lives in a subdivision across the road from the site.

Stern said he and other neighbors aim to research how toxic the odors are that they breathed in for years. They also want to ensure that a tenant "as bad or worse" doesn't replace the compost yard.

A1 Organics' executives say the compost is a toxic-free blend of yard debris and food waste that is turned into a mulch.

Chuck Wilson, the company's president, said he was surprised and disappointed about having to leave.

Wilson said his company has tried various measures to suppress the odors, such as spraying a deodorizing citrus agent on the waste.

A1 Organics has nine composting sites in Colorado, some of them not far from homes, and never clashed with neighbors there, he said.

"We've been good to the (Las Vegas) valley with our green mission," Wilson said. "We've diverted hundreds of thousands of (cubic) yards of waste from the landfill."

In an Aug. 11 letter, Las Vegas Paving's attorney, James Barker, criticized A1 Organics for not doing more to eradicate the stench, and he apologized to residents for the nuisance.

"While we recognize that this will not immediately resolve the odor problems, it does put the permanent end to the problem at least in sight," Barker wrote.

A1 Organics must restore the site to the condition it was in before the company began leasing it, which means no more waste can be taken in, Barker said.

One environmental advocate hoped the company could find another local site for its operation.

"We desperately need one in town," said Tara Pike, who runs recycling services at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Organic waste is the second biggest thing in a landfill behind paper products."

Some Clark County officials have said the conflict is a result of homes being built in an industrial area during the housing boom. Although real estate agents were required to inform home buyers of nearby industry, some residents said the disclosure forms they signed didn't adequately describe the bad smells.

A1 Organics is better off moving someplace where they don't bother anyone, County Commissioner Susan Brager said. "It seems like it's in the best interest of everyone."

The company will begin looking for another place to operate, perhaps on a 40-acre site outside Boulder City, Wilson said, adding that there are no houses within miles.

But County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he wouldn't approve a composting permit at the Boulder City site, in part because it would be near a gun club whose members vehemently oppose it.

Sisolak said he can't trust the company to be a good neighbor after it failed to live up to an agreement. The company was supposed to have quarterly meetings with neighbors and post a phone number on its main sign for people to call when they smell nasty fumes, he said.

A better area for composting would be at the Apex industrial park or landfill in the north valley, Sisolak said.

Bob Coyle, Republic Services area president, said he would consider leasing land to A1 Organics near the dump site, if the company was interested. He agreed the industrial park was another option.

"There's certainly plenty of property out there," Coyle said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or 702-455-4519.