Several Stanfield residents turned out on Monday to hear the proposed solutions for the smell that’s been plaguing them for the past several months, but many left still skeptical that the odors will go away.
Representatives from 3D Idapro Solutions, the company that owns a factory on Hoosier Avenue that has been emitting odors, came from their offices in Illinois to discuss their plans to mitigate the smell, some of which are already in place. They admitted to rushing the plant back into production after a fire and blending incorrect materials last week that led to a worse-than-usual stench.
The factory, which moved into Stanfield in 2016, primarily processes whole and cut potatoes, peels and potato slurry, dehydrating it to make dog food.
Kevin Andreson and Mark Johnson of 3D Idapro said the company is in the second part of a three-part plan to mitigate odors. The first step, completed Sept. 15, was grading the site, eliminating pot holes on the property to reduce standing water and to limit potatoes spilling out of the trucks and decomposing on the ground, which they said had contributed to the smell.
In the second phase, which they expect to complete by Sunday, Oct. 15, they plan to enclose the receiving area, to reduce the odors to surrounding areas as the potatoes dry. This will include putting up a large tent in the receiving area.
They said they have also established an odor mitigation system called “Odor Boss,” which is supposed to neutralize odors in the area.
The final phase, scheduled for completion Nov. 30, is the installation of a new air scrubber. The old scrubber, which was too small, was damaged in a fire at the plant in February.
“The installation of the new unit will significantly reduce the smells as the plant operates,” Andreson said.
Both executives apologized for the discomfort the factory’s operations have caused residents.
“We ran the plant probably before it was ready to run,” Johnson said. “Then we had the fire. We tried to get it up and running as fast as possible, but put in the wrong equipment.”
Citizens still had many concerns about how the smell was affecting their health and property values.
One Stanfield resident, who said he has lung problems, asked why the smell was so bad last Friday.
“That was 100 percent our fault,” Johnson said. “What we should have been blending was a dry material strain with a wet one. However, our operators were blending a very dry strain with a very dry strain. There was not enough water to take out, and so it basically started baking — that’s what was causing the odors.”
Stanfield residents asked why the issues with odors weren’t worked out before the plant began to operate.
Both Andreson and Johnson said they were relatively new to the company — Andreson was hired in January, and Johnson in May — but that as far as they knew, the plant had always been within its permits.
“We’re taking these steps, and we’re about 45 days away from getting to that,” Andreson said.
Kathryn Davis asked about the company’s history in Wisconsin and in Burley, Idaho, where it has other factories.
“If those places don’t have smells, why aren’t you able to use those facilities as your prototype?” she asked.
Johnson said both of those places have systems in place that they are trying to implement in Stanfield, such as a scrubber of the proper size, and a cover on the receiving yard.
“That’s the structure we’re talking about here,” he said.
The company has had problems with smells in Burley, and faced criminal charges in 2016, with two misdemeanor counts of non-permitted use, and two counts of failure to conform to permitted use requirements, according to southern Idaho newspaper the Magic Valley Times-News. The company pleaded not guilty on all counts.
In Wisconsin Rapids in 2016, there were reports of the factory emitting a smell many compared to “bad cheese,” but by 2017, the smells were reported to have disappeared.
Several residents said they were concerned about property values decreasing in the town, and some said they had been facing trouble selling property.
“I have property for sale by the tracks,” said Bill Barrett. “People won’t buy it because of the smell.”
Tom Bohm, fire marshal of the Umatilla County Fire District, said he had been pleased with how the company had responded to his requests. He said he now goes to the plant about once a week. The factory does not have a connection from a fire hydrant to a water main.
“A lot of the planning (for fire safety) gets done in Salem,” Bohm said. “Not from people who live here, which is part of the problem. There is no water on that side, but they’re going to get the water in for us. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them. I think they’re here to work.”
Johnson said the company has been in regular contact with the city of Stanfield and the Department of Environmental Quality, and got a surprise visit from the DEQ Monday morning.
He said the company had put in a request to the Union Pacific Railroad to access the water main that’s located under the railroad tracks, but does not have an estimated time for when they’ll be able to do so. Until then, the factory has a retention pond from which they can draw in case of a fire.
Citizens asked how they could be sure these steps would improve the odors.
“I can say it will be greatly minimized,” Johnson said. “I can’t stand here and promise you’ll never smell it.”
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org