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Judge declines to dismiss West Valley 'intolerable odor' lawsuit

A Utah judge declined Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit that West Valley City filed against a waste company, claiming it is causing an "intolerable odor" to nearby residents.

A Utah judge declined Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit that West Valley City filed against a waste company, claiming it is causing an "intolerable odor" to nearby residents. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

WEST VALLEY CITY — A 3rd District judge declined Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed against E.T. Technologies, ruling that West Valley City has the right to claim that the business is causing harm or nuisance to its residents, even though the business is located outside of the city's borders.

The city filed the lawsuit on June 8, 2020, claiming that the company, which contracts with Salt Lake County to deal with waste, causes an "intolerable odor of human feces mixed with industrial waste" throughout West Valley City during warmer months, which keeps residents from enjoying public areas or their own properties.

According to the complaint, E.T. Technologies uses an open-air system at a soil recycling site where it "dumps petroleum-contaminated material and other industrial wastes on bare ground and spreads raw sewage sludge over them." The city claims that the company should be using other methods that do not create such a horrible smell and that the company is breaking environmental and health laws through its actions.

At the hearing to consider the dismissal, E.T. Technologies argued that allowing West Valley City to file a lawsuit under the public nuisance statute against a business that is located more than a mile away from the city boundaries should not be allowed, and would set a precedent for lawsuits to be filed from anywhere in the state for things occurring in other cities.

"We are arguing that (the nuisance) exists where it is caused, not everywhere that it has effect," company attorney Eric Klein argued. "You can't just sue anywhere in the state."

The attorney for West Valley City, Justin Toth, argued that something would not be a nuisance if it did not have an impact somewhere, and that the nuisance is not defined by where it occurs but by where it has an impact.

Judge Keith Kelly ruled for the city and said that a public nuisance can be not only the source of an act, but also where it "annoys, injures or endangers," and said that the nuisance in this instance is alleged to be occurring within the boundaries of West Valley City even though the company is located outside the city.

The hearing also addressed whether Salt Lake County would need to be included as a party in the action, but Kelly ruled that it does not because the allegations in the complaint relate only to E.T. Technologies' operations of the facility and are not against the county.

Through the lawsuit, West Valley City is asking for the court to require E.T. Technologies to stop the actions that are causing the smell and to award at least $300,000 in damages.

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