For years, residents of Waseca County have been told that the stench of the Birds Eye sewage system is the smell of earned money. But it is still too much for the nostrils of some inhabitants.
On September 21, plant manager Ralph Castro assured the Waseca County Board of Commissioners that the team was working to improve the situation. Birds Eye having chosen to stay in Waseca County rather than relocate its operations elsewhere, Castro began by emphasizing his team’s commitment to “being good corporate citizens.” They are all excited, he said, for the $ 250 million “big and beautiful facility” being built on 360th Avenue, south of the old Quad Graphics building. They plan to commission the new vegetable processing plant in the spring of 2022, he said, leaving “the 95-year-old building with all the memories we had there.”
The reason for Castro’s appearance, however, was that county staff had received complaints from Waseca County landowners about a foul odor coming from the Birds Eye sewage treatment facility. In response, county staff invited Castro and his team to provide an update on the strategies being implemented to deal with the odor.
âThey invested millions of dollars in a study to try to make real improvements,â Johnson said. “So (it’s) trying to educate the board on what these initiatives are that Conagra is doing, whether that will change an existing facility from the next install or not.”
Johnson added that he assumed Birds Eye would continue to implement the same strategies as if the facility had not changed location.
One of the ways Birds Eye is tackling odors in Waseca County, Castro said, is by installing a new screen system, which could remove more of the organic solids produced as by-products during the processing of vegetables. These by-products, especially on the hottest days with the wind blowing from the direction of the sewerage system towards the city, give off an odor when they dissolve. Additionally, the company has implemented a new chemical control system, using hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals to reduce odor-causing compounds like hydrogen sulfide.
Asked by Commissioner DeAnne Malterer about the timing of these improvements, Todd Boehne, director of environmental management at the Birds Eye facility, said the new screen will arrive and be installed before the new plant begins operations.
The other thing Birds Eye has done, Castro said, is to upgrade the aeration units used to “agitate” sewage “holding ponds” and to break down more odor-producing solids so that they can then be applied to the ground.
âI’ll never say there won’t be a smell from a sewage system,â Boehne said, âbut the idea is to improve our aeration and the oxidation of the organics that come from of our treatment, which would remove the system’s ability to generate odors.
Mark Leiferman, planning and zoning administrator for Waseca County, said after the board of commissioners meeting that he felt Birds Eye was taking care to bring its facilities into line with odor concerns.
âI think they believe that whatever they are doing is gradually helping to solve the problem,â Leiferman said. âThey invested a lot of money in acquiring additional spray areas and the plant itself, and spent a lot of money on engineering costs to get thereâ¦ it’s just enough. large factory, and it has a lot of complications. “
The best thing Birds Eye can do, he said, is move its sewage spray fields further out of town, although he acknowledged that this would only shift the impact of the water. smell of the inhabitants of Waseca Town over any area of ââthe county where the fields were being moved to.
âDistance is the cure for most odor problems,â Leiferman said.
âIt’s a big project, it’s a lot of work, and we haven’t finished yet,â said Castro. âWe still have work to do, but at the end of the season the smells go away. But our goal is to keep improving.
After taking stock and answering questions about the scent, Castro added that Birds Eye staff envision local production growth of around 30% over the next three to four years due to the transition to the new facility. The result of this growth and maintaining local operations, he said, would keep jobs in the community and not have to buy so much produce from all over the country or elsewhere when grown. within a 50 mile radius.
Contact reporter Julian Hast at 507-333-3133. Â© Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.