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Supervisors to consider ending odor log

By Staff | Mar 16, 2011

Doug Skinner, standing, discusses his concerns with the odor log at Tuesday’s Emmet County Supervisors meeting. Listening intently are Roy and Rose Gage. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

The Emmet Count Board of Supervisors Tuesday decided it will wait until after a tour next Tuesday of the Iowa Protein Solutions plant south of Estherville to determine if it will continue to record a log of complaints about odors from the plant.

In a discussion Tuesday between IPS owner Doug Skinner and the public, a recurring issue was whether all of the odors reported did in fact come from his plant or other sources.

Skinner said many came from somewhere else.

In opening the topic, Bev Juhl, board chair, said the supervisors Tuesday were only going to listen to comments and would table any decision until after touring the plant next week.

Hugh Black, who lives on the west side of town, said he could smell the plant while riding around on his bike. “Spencer used to have a plant like that in the eighties so I recognized it,” Black said.

“We’ve have severe odor issues out there,” said Randy Colsrud, owner of Servpro. “You can smell it inside our main office.”

Colsrud said of customers, “their property is starting to stink.”

He also said the odors were impacting him financially.

“We’ve lost business due to it,” Colsrud said. “We have one gal who had upper respiratory issues and she had to get out of there because she was starting to have an attack. There was one time it was a gag reflex just outside our office.”

Skinner asked whether the nearby sewage treatment plant and Daybreak Foods didn’t bother customers as well.

“Not as heavy as the rendering plant is,” Colsrud said. “Our complaints are 50 times worse with the rendering plant.”

“It was really bad,” said Wade Peterson, who lives on North 20th Street. “I’ve had it probably four or five times in my apartment on North 20th Street north of Super 8.”

Roy Gage, who lives on South 15th Street, objected to statements in a story in the Daily News last week that he said indicated that Skinner had been maligned. “I thought this was very mischaracterized,” Gage said.

“This (the log) rings so true,” Gage said. “You look at the area where it occurs and this rings true.”

“I’ve probably gone through that log more than anybody in Emmet County,” Skinner said, noting three instances he investigated personally. “Those three specific events categorically did not involve Iowa Protein Solutions,” Skinner said. Skinner said in one situation the plant had not been running for thirty hours before the complaint was made and the wind was in the wrong direction to have caused the stated problem.

“We saw the steam and we smelled it,” said Rose Gage.

“I’ve got production records and I’ve got boiler logs,” said Skinner.

“There’s many, many times there was an odor and I didn’t report it,” said Roy Gage, asking that the odor log continue. “This (log) tells me there was an odor issue. If we do away with the log there’s no issue.”

“I don’t understand why you don’t want a log,” said Audrey Gage. “If you’re so confident in your ability to make it not stink, why wouldn’t you want a log.”

“Thank you for belittling all the energy we’ve put into it,” Skinner said. “How much of my time should I have to spend to go check chicken manure. That is absolutely unfair.”

Skinner said the log should apply to all odors – not just those that are said to come from his plant.

Juhl agreed that the log was instituted without direction.

“I support that. I don’t doubt that there are some that were wrong there,” said Roy Gage.

Skinner objected to the engineer’s office – which was keeping the log – releasing the information to the public. Roy Gage had obtained a copy prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

“I did not release that (log) until I confirmed it with someone on the board,” said Barb Nissen in the engineer’s office.

Supervisor Alan Madden said the issue was apparently the log, and that the county zoning department was always available to answer complaints. He said the purpose of the log was not well-defined.

“If we do away with this log, that doesn’t do away with your ability to call the county zoning office from now on into infinity,” Madden said.

“My opinion is the log pretty accurately reflects the problem,” said Roy Gage.

“I don’t think we should call it IPS log,” Juhl said.

Skinner said having the log record strictly IPS complaints was biased against his company.

The board is scheduled to tour the plant 11 a.m. next Tuesday before it make its decision whether to continue the log.