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‘Stinky sewage and rotten eggs’ — Residents want solutions to smelly problem in Lake Odessa

LAKE ODESSA, Mich. - A liquid egg processing plant is causing quite the stink in Lake Odessa. Neighbors say they can smell what resembles raw sewage and rotten eggs.

Cargill Inc., a liquid egg manufacturer for companies like McDonald's, has taken full responsibility for the odor, but the smell is still upsetting the locals.

"Smells like... just sewage, like someone went to the restroom outside," said resident Jennifer Like.

In a written statement, Cargill says, in part, that they have "maintained an open dialogue with township officials and the plant's management team has responded to residents who have expressed concerns, meeting with them and explaining what we are doing.  The MDEQ has twice been to our facility over the past month and we have received no notification that they believe there is an offsite concern from our wastewater system." (Read the full statement below) 

Cargill representative Michael Martin said the company has been trying multiple remedies to get rid of the problem but they haven't found a permanent solution. The most recent attempt to rid the smell was Monday, when crews emptied and cleaned a solid waste tank. Martin says the company will now be transporting solid waste off site every day, which will help eliminate odors.

"Not sure if it's a health concern or not, they never said a whole lot about that," said Lake Odessa resident Joe Morton. "But I mentioned to my neighbor that I was getting some orange residue on my shoes when I was out there mowing on the lawn."

Another concern is from the byproduct hydrogen sulfide, which is poisonous in high doses and smells like rotten eggs.  The statement from Cargill provided to FOX 17 says, "Inspections by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and an environmental engineering firm indicated there was no detectable level of hydrogen sulfide, (H2S), which often smells like rotten eggs, in residential areas closest to our plant."

It's enough of a problem that both village and township leaders are taking questions, with a town hall meeting scheduled for Dec. 4.

Cargill representative Michael Martin said the company has been trying multiple remedies to get rid of the problem but they haven't found a permanent solution. The most recent attempt to rid the smell was Monday, when crews emptied and cleaned a solid waste tank. Martin says the company will now be transporting solid waste off site every day, which will help eliminate odors.

Below is the full written statement from Martin:

Cargill values its relationship with neighbors and the community surrounding its Lake Odessa egg processing facility.  We are sorry for any inconvenience people have experienced as the result of the start-up of our new wastewater treatment system there due to odors.

Cargill has maintained an open dialogue with township officials and the plant's management team has responded to residents who have expressed concerns, meeting with them and explaining what we are doing.  The MDEQ has twice been to our facility over the past month and we have received no notification that they believe there is an offsite concern from our wastewater system.

We encourage residents who detect an odor from our plant, or have questions, to contact Jay Patel, Cargill's Lake Odessa plant general manager.  He can be reached at 616-374-3725 or jay_patel@cargill.com.

Background:
Because our egg business continues to grow, we invested in a 2016 Lake Odessa plant expansion to meet our customers' needs.  The expansion included installation of a new $5.5 million aerobic (organic) wastewater treatment system to support the municipal water treatment system operated by the local water authority.

Our wastewater system began operating this past summer and continues to be fine-tuned.  After the start-up, we noticed odors from this new process and took actions in our attempt to address them.  A few residents then made us aware of a periodic odor beyond our facility.  After an initial review, we identified the transfer process from our holding tanks to tanker trucks as the potential source of the issue.  Since then, we tried a number of options with unsatisfactory results.

Other options are being explored and we are committed to proactively addressing residents' concerns.  Currently, we are testing daily direct loading to tankers, which minimizes the storage time before the material is transported offsite for disposal until a long-term solution can be identified.

Inspections by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and an environmental engineering firm indicated there was no detectable level of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which often smells like rotten eggs, in residential areas closest to our plant.

We work hard to be a good neighbor and help the community thrive. Our plant was built in 1988/1989 and acquired by Cargill in 1994.  We currently employ nearly 300 people at the plant, purchase approximately $25 million worth of liquid eggs annually from area farms and the plant's annual economic impact to the area is $50 million.

 

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