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Update on lagoon waste storage

Danielle Ryan

(12/14) Many residents in Emmitsburg have not forgotten the unpleasant odor that lingered in town for several months this past spring and summer, and many are concerned they may face the same odor again this spring. During the December Town Council meeting, Town staff briefed the Council on updates concerning the lagoon waste storage facility.

In November 2016, the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners approved the storage and lease agreement from Enviro-Organic Technologies (EOT) to use one of the town’s empty lagoons to temporarily store food process residuals from poultry processing plants. EOT was contracted to use lagoon 3 from November 8 to February 28. According to the contract, come March 1, EOT would take the material out of the lagoons and spread it on the farmland. The proposal came with an $80,000 rental agreement for the four months.

Starting on February 28, residents began noticing an unpleasant smell emanating throughout the town from the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The odor was only meant to last for about two weeks, as the sludge was being removed from the lagoon. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Residents noted that the odor presented health concerns for those suffering from asthma or other medical conditions and was an immense inconvenience.

On October 2 town staff met with contracting staff at the Wastewater Treatment Plant to go over the plan for winter 2017 through fall 2018. EOT noted that there was no fall cleanout this year, meaning no hauling days occurred. However, operations began once again in the middle of December and will continue through February 28, 2018. Loads are being transported and discharged into the lagoon. EOT assured town staff that all material being discharged into the lagoon is happening underneath the top cap, which should help minimize any odor as long as the cap is not broken.

Starting on March 1, spring cleanout will begin. This will consist of twelve hauling days from the start date through May 1 from 6 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.. EOT hopes to use most of the hauling days early on, in order to beat the heat. All mixing will once again be done underneath the cap. Any material left in the lagoon after the twelve hauling days will be left in the lagoon until the fall when the temperatures decrease. Fall 2018 cleanout will begin on October 1 and will once again consist of twelve hauling days.

Town staff has been working with EOT to ensure that several changes be made to cut down on odor and minimize the inconvenience to residents. Hauling trucks will no longer travel through town as they did last year and a field operator will be on site to ensure the operations are running smoothly and appropriately. Unlike last year, EOT has a schedule consisting of twelve non-consecutive hauling days that they must stick to. However, the bulk of the inbound hauling will happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means that some hauling may occur during the evening hours.

Additionally, this year, the top cap on the lagoon is fully formed and all mixing will occur underneath the cap. PVC pipes have been installed and enter the lagoon twelve to eighteen inches underneath the cap. EOT is also in the process of testing a bacterium in Georgia that helps minimize odor. If it continues to be successful, they may do a trial run in Emmitsburg’s lagoon. Utilizing the straw mat as the top cap did help decrease the odor last year, and EOT will continue adding straw to the cap to keep the cap intact and at a proper depth of about eight inches.

Residents were not pleased last year with the outcome of using the lagoon to store the sludge. Residents such as Richard and Paula Lindsay hope to see some vast improvements from last year. Town staff has taken residents’ concerns into consideration and hopefully have a plan set up to minimize the odor and disruption experienced last year.

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