Few complaints as details of Starbucks coffee roasting project on Capitol Hill aired

Roasting room concept image

Roasting room concept image

Last week’s community hearing on the air quality impacts for the planned Starbucks roasting facility at the base of Capitol Hill turned into a round table conversation as few residents attended. Still, some light was shed on the potential effects of installing another coffee roaster on Pike – according to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) reps, it would be the largest on Capitol Hill — and details were revealed on the steps Starbucks will have to take before a permit is granted by the agency. Meanwhile, there is still time to comment on the plans.

The Starbucks application for the permit in the former art supply store and Volvo dealership at Melrose and Pine indicates that work will soon start in earnest at the site. “Current plans are to begin demolition and mobilization activities in March 2014 and to start up the new operations in August 2014. In order to meet project timelines, Starbucks is seeking the Notice of Approval from PSCAA by the end of April 2014,” the Starbucks application reads. The coffee giant is currently working with a consultant in order to pass the air quality examinations that will focus primarily on their coffee roasting machines.

“We go through a pretty detailed analysis of the roasters as we go through this permitting process and it is strictly focused on air pollution,” said Carole Cenci, PSCAA Senior Engineer. “The air pollution will come from the roaster for the most part but a little bit comes out of the cooling tray.”

The facility will feature one large and another smaller roaster. The roasting drums include natural gas burners to heat-up green coffee beans for about 10-15 minutes and then dump them out to cool off. These machines will run to a smoke stack on the roof — approximately 20 feet in height. PSCAA requires stacks produce no visible smoke.

“We’ll get emissions from the natural gas burning and the beans themselves roasting,” Cenci said. The roasters will create greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide similar to a household heater, but of more concern for PSCAA are the toxic emissions such a facility creates.

Acetaldehyde, acrolein and formaldehyde are the potentially dangerous elements the air agency will keep a close eye on. “All three of those are compounds that the state has determined are harmful if you breathe them in a large enough quantity.”

To win approval, the planned Starbucks facility will need to meet requirements in three areas:

  • Starbucks will have to demonstrate that their facility does not create or emit a level of the three toxins that could be harmful to people outside or near the building. “If they don’t meet the standard they won’t get a permit,” said Cenci. “That’s actually the stage that they’re at now.”
  • A regulation on odor states the facility cannot produce coffee scents to a level “that unreasonably interferes with enjoyment of life and property.” This was referred to as the general nuisance rule. Complaints can be filed with PSCAA if it surpasses this threshold. The facility can also not produce dust.
  • Roasters and after-burners will be required to be in good working order and Starbucks will have to install the best available control technology on it.

Should Starbucks receive the permit, the facility will be subject to an annual inspection by PSCAA. Starbucks also applied for a permit to roast daily that would allow the facility to churn out coffee 24/7, according to Cenci.

PSCAA does not typically hold public hearings for its permitting process but the Starbucks project was randomly selected for a new trial with hopes of spurring increased public involvement in the decision. Though the meeting had an underwhelming attendance, one Capitol Hill neighbor voiced her concerns about the potential coffee roaster.

“I’m super concerned about the garbage,” said one resident who attended the session. She said she can see into the building from her balcony. The woman told PSCAA reps that a one-way alley adjacent to the building has potential for loads of Starbucks trash that could present an issue, and adds she is worried about the frequency of trucks coming to drop-off or pick-up products. These issues were not able to be addressed by PSCAA reps.

Starbucks officials did not attend the meeting.

You can still submit public comments to the PSCAA via email: carolec@pscleanair.org

4 thoughts on “Few complaints as details of Starbucks coffee roasting project on Capitol Hill aired

  1. The author forgot to mention (as a previous post on CHS did) that the reason Starbucks didn’t attend is because they were asked not to do so. Isn’t that what you previously reported?

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  3. I’m glad the air pollution issues being examined I live a block away and during certain types of weather where the air is stagnant it’s hard to breath for those of us with allergies. As it is we have Woodies grill putting out smoke plus other restaurants with grills and I believe the coffee place next to the Eagle roasts so we don’t need to add much more to that before it becomes unbearable at times. Plus we have all the freeway and traffic smog. I don’t think having coffee roasted on sight is that important anyway. The people living nearby being able to breath clean air is what’s most important!

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