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On the scent

Estherville’s odors have become more noticeable in recent weeks. Thursday, a public meeting will address the issue

July 16, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors is holding a special public meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday morning at the SERT Building on the campus of Iowa Lakes Community College to address the odor issue most noticeable along Highway 4 south of Estherville, as well as concerns about spillage and other issues originated by the Central Bi-Products rendering plant.

The supervisors are also holding a special closed session Wednesday, July 18 at 9 a.m. in the boardroom of the Emmet County Courthouse.

The Emmet County Auditor's Office logged 61 odor complaints noted throughout the Estherville area since the beginning of 2018. The most common location of odor complaints occurred on Highway 4 south of Estherville, near Iowa Lakes Community College and the Regional Wellness Center on South 18th Street, near the baseball diamond at Spurgin Park, and in the south and central parts of Estherville. The map above has the locations marked of 61 complaints recorded on the Auditor's office log as of press time.

Article Photos

Emmet County Supervisor John Pluth said of Thursday's meeting, "We want to educate the public."

Ten years ago, the Emmet County Board of Adjustment issued a conditional use permit for the rendering facility known as Iowa Protein Solutions, LLC to occupy the former Golden Sun feed mill. At the time, former Dakota Pack and IPS owner Doug Skinner said the plant would generate oil or grease for biodiesel production, bone meal, and industrial applications, and the volume of production would be 10-12 deliveries of raw product and two outbound shipments per day, with an ample staging area to avoid delays on the road.

The permit is good for the life of the operation unit unless the unit is modified, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Former planning & zoning director Larry Sundall said at the time, "This is state of the art equipment." The planning & zoning board at the time, July 22, 2008, assured concerned citizens that should a new owner who was perhaps less environmentally responsible took over operations, and the parameters of the conditional use permit were not met, the county could shut down operations and citizens would have the option to sue for damages.

Citizens have recently pursued civil court as a recourse for the suffering caused by rendering plant odors. Residents of South St. Paul, Minn., filed settled a federal class action lawsuit in March of this year against Sanimax, an animal rendering plant, citing years of emanating foul odor into their neighborhood.

Central Bi-Products is a division of Farmers Union Industries with three CBP rendering plants: Estherville, and Long Prairie and Redwood Falls, Minn. In the first quarter of 2018, the Redwood Falls location was fined $15,500 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for air quality violations.

The company website states, "We're the renderer you don't have to worry about." In another section, "we don't skimp on anything. Not quality. Not Service. Not anything. We certify every single thing we do (and we're certified for it, by everyone from APPI to APHIS"

At the Estherville City Council meeting June 4, Tom Beseman, newly named as director of the Estherville Central Bi-Products location, said he believed in being a good neighbor, and pointed to new environmental upgrades coming to the Estherville location, including new units for workers to shower in and out, indoor truck scrubbing, and new scrubbers, which would mitigate the amount of fat getting caught in air ducts. Beseman said the company was spending an estimated $3.4 million on infrastructure after a June 1 fire at the plant.

Beseman said at the June 4 meeting, the facility processes about 1.5 million hogs per week, and that when the new infrastructure is built, "there should be no more scattering outside."

A receptionist at Farmers Union Industries said Beseman was not located in Estherville but in Long Prairie. Neither Beseman, nor Central Bi-Products Estherville location manager Steve Simonsen, nor Glen Johnson of Farmers Union Industries could be reached for comment prior to press time.

Michelle Sabatini, environmental specialist with the Iowa DNR said, "We have a couple of people working on [Central Bi-Products], on the spill and odor issues."

Sabatini pointed to revocations of three air quality permits, confirmed April 3, 2015 through a letter from the DNR's attorney. The permits were revoked through a request from the company to the DNR because the company was moving from the large-scale air quality units installed by Iowa Protein to three boilers and seven cookers. Those units are covered by a small unit exemption (SUE), described in Chapter 22 of the Iowa Administrative Code.

The SUE lists emissions unit limits for lead and lead compounds, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and hazardous air pollutants.

Sabatini said at the time of the air quality permit revocation requests, the company would have been required to measure and demonstrate its emissions were under the code limits.

A substantial change in operation volume could result in an increase in emissions and environmental impact, officials with the DNR said. If a company exceeds the threshold across all its small units, the company is required to apply for air construction permits by submitting a letter to the DNR.

A disjointed collection of state administrative regulations and local nuisance ordinances cover the problem of odors across the nation, leaving no consistent method states have ever used to regulate odor.

A survey of complaints from across the nation have echoed a similar theme: smells make it more difficult to entice new business investors to a community when they come to visit, and create barriers to citizens and visitors enjoying the outdoors in a community.

Thursday's meeting begins promptly at 9 a.m.



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