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A compost and recycling company in Napa County that is at the center of a lawsuit filed in May says allegations that it is creating a nuisance for its neighbors are false and misleading, and the company will soon seek to have the case dismissed.
In its response to the lawsuit filed by seven neighbors of the Upper Valley Disposal Service’s (UVDS) Whitehall Lane facility, the company says it is in compliance with all its permits and that any odor, noise or light coming from the property are within reasonable limits.
UVDS denies neighbors “have suffered pervasive unhealthy, harmful, and damaging noise, odors and other pollution from the company’s operations,” according to the company’s response, which was filed in Napa County Superior Court on Thursday.
The company says it operates within its prescribed hours of operation and has taken steps to mitigate excessive noise and light.
UVDS follows “industry best practices with respect to safety, fire prevention, leachate prevention, and managing odor and noise issues,” the response said.
In addition, the company has been at that location since 1966, “which is decades before any of the plaintiffs purchased their neighboring properties,” according to the response.
“Plaintiffs knew UVDS and (Upper Valley Recycling) operated their composting, recycling and collection businesses when they purchased their properties and the proximity to the Whitehall Lane facility was, by virtue of how the real estate market works, incorporated into the purchase prices they paid,” the response said.
Part of the neighbors’ motivation for suing the company is that they feel their complaints to regulatory agencies and local political leadership have gone unanswered, said plaintiff and Whitehall Lane neighbor Sandi Thompson.
In its response, the company says it is closely monitored by state and county agencies and that the plaintiffs “failed to exhaust their administrative remedies,” claiming they could have appealed UVDS’ latest permit approval to the Napa County Board of Supervisors but “chose not to do so.”
Concerned about compost
Neighbors are also worried about potential fire hazards arising from the large piles of compost materials at the facility, Thompson said.
The company’s response calls allegations about fires false and says there was one “hot spot” at its Whitehall Lane facility in December 2020 that was “immediately addressed” and “caused no damages.”
In addition, the company says it is installing a new “temperature-controlled system” and will monitor the compost temperatures 24 hours a day.
The lawsuit also alleges that the company has been allowed to increase composting and recycling services without having to respond to a request for proposal or engage in competitive bidding.
In its response, the company says those allegations are irrelevant to the neighbors’ nuisance claims and that such allegations demonstrate the lawsuit is intended to obtain confidential UVDS information as part of St. Helena Mayor Geoff Ellsworth’s “personal vendetta” against it.
UVDS claims that the neighbors are collaborating with Ellsworth in an effort to “put financial pressure on the companies, create bad press for the companies” and to obtain confidential pricing information, among other things.
Ellsworth could use that information in an effort to replace UVDS’ services with another company, according to the response.
The company also says that neighbors have received information from Ellsworth, “including the false allegation that the companies polluted the Napa River.”