Dairy company hears residents’ smell concerns

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

DairiConcepts officials said Wednesday work being done to remedy an odor problem associated with its wastewater that drew the ire of neighbors last summer should be completed by the end of May.

DairiConcepts, a milk processing plant that produces primarily a powdered product called milk protein concentrate met with neighbors of the plant Wednesday night at the Memorial Building to update them on the progress being made on the plant’s $37 million expansion. The project includes a larger and more efficient wastewater treatment facility.

Attendance at the meeting was much lighter than a public hearing last June. Plant manager Ed Steven said he was a bit surprised by the turnout, but the main goal of the meeting was to be a good neighbor and let people know how things were coming along.

“I think the concern everybody has around the plant is the odor,” neighbor Raymond Mirabal said. “It’s putrid. It burns the nose and eyes, but it doesn’t do it all the time.”

Plant officials agreed the odor was back but told residents it wouldn’t get any worse than it is right now while the project is being completed.

Plant officials say expansion of the plant itself, which includes new unloading bays, silos, polishers, dryers and expanded cooling capability is complete. Delays caused by the weather in December and January and a lack of needed clay soil for the liner on the new sewer lagoon have put construction of the wastewater treatment plant behind schedule, however.

The project had been scheduled for completion by March 7 but is now expected to be finished by May 31, according to officials.

The plant’s wastewater lagoon will increase from 1 million gallons to 18 million gallons in size, according to project engineer Tom Probst.

Probst said the new system will also separate “clear” water from water that must be treated. He said that, coupled with efficiency gains made in the plant to reduce solids and recycle water, will also help control the odor problem.

In addition, Probst said a pumping system will send wastewater five miles to the west to be applied as irrigation on cropland. The less contaminated or “clear” water can be sent through that system immediately, thereby relieving pressure on the current wastewater system.

Plant neighbor Harold Brooks argued while improvements are being made to the wastewater treatment system, with higher production, the problems might increase.

Plant officials answered, while the original plant had not been designed for 100 percent treatment, the update would be.

“I’ve got to give you credit,” neighbor Deborah Barnard said. “In the past, the company that owned it (the plant) hasn’t even admitted there was an odor.”

“The only thing I know is we’ll wait and see,” Brooks said. “We’ve been down this road before.”