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 Emmitsburg residents put up stink over odor most fowl

Kate Masters

(5/6) The Facebook comments expressed the frustration.

"What Emmitsburg smells like is down right disgusting," Kim Andrew wrote in response to an April 19 post on the town of Emmitsburgís home page.

"I was at my momís & the smell was enough to gag you," added Tina Kindle.

Another commenter, Tammy Jo Gest, attested that the smell "hits you in the face like a brick when you come up on it on [U.S.] 15!"

The problem ó which the townís Facebook post addressed ó was a "strong odor" coming from the Emmitsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant on the east side of town. Residents also appeared at a Monday night meeting of the town commissioners to complain in person about the smell, which stemmed from one of the plantís previously unused lagoons.

Phil Snader ó the founder of Enviro-Organic Technologies (EOT), a New Windsor-based waste management company ó said the town first allowed him to lease the lagoon in October or November 2016. After Emmitsburg spent $19.5 million on a new solar-powered wastewater treatment plant in 2015, parts of the older plant were taken out of commission, including a water storage pool.

Instead of letting the pool sit empty, Snader proposed that the town lease it to his company for $80,000 a year. Since the contract started last fall, EOT has used the lagoon to store residuals from poultry processing ó a form of wastewater mixed with blood, fat, proteins and carbohydrates.

"The residuals are distributed to the farming community for free," Snader said. "They use it as fertilizer."

But for residents who appeared at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, $80,000 a year isnít enough to justify the pungent smell that spreads over the town when the wind blows from the east. Councilwoman Liz Buckman compared the odor to rotten broccoli, but Richard Lindsay ó who lives with his wife, Paula, just outside the Emmitsburg town limits ó said it was worse.

"Iíve never experienced a smell like it, and I had Agent Orange sprayed on me when I was in Vietnam," Lindsay said. "I donít blame the town because I know theyíre looking for revenue, but this stuff stinks."

The public comment portion of the meeting lasted for nearly an hour and a half as several residents shared their experience with the smell. Mary Ann Wivell described the odor as unbearable. Paula Lindsay explained that she and Richard are frequently subjected to the smell in their home, which is about 150 yards from the lagoon.

Richard was also dissatisfied with the councilís response to their complaint.

"Thatís one thing that did get to me ó one of the council members made a comment that we did choose to live right next to a wastewater treatment plant," he said later in a phone interview. "Well, we were here first. When we moved in, the whole area was farmland."

According to Buckman, leasing the lagoon does have some advantages. The new wastewater treatment plant costs the town roughly an additional $110,000 a year, and the contract with EOT helps defray that cost.

Snader also said that the smell could improve next year. The company intended to pump out the waste by March 1, but a late winter snowstorm prevented them from doing so. A long period of wet weather also delayed the removal, but EOT finished pumping out the residuals on Thursday, and Snader said that the same delay might not happen every year.

"I committed to do the job in 12 good working days, not counting rain days," he said. "I emailed that last Friday as a revision to the operating plan."

The town Board of Commissioners also took steps to limit the odor at Monday nightís meeting. EOT was ordered to stop stirring the lagoon ó a process that makes extraction easier, but does increase the smell ó and to remove the majority of the waste by May 5, a deadline that the company met.

Even with most of the residual material removed, there will still be roughly 8 inches left at the bottom of the lagoon, Snader said. To keep the waste from spreading odor, EOT and the Board of Commissioners agreed that the company would spread up to 8 to 10 inches of hay on top of the remaining material in the pool. Snader also said that he would increase the use of OK-1000, an enzyme thatís commonly added to waste material as a way to mitigate smell.

"If an effective resolution is not achieved with all due speed, all practical options will be considered, including revisiting the contract for the use of the lagoon. ... If these actions are ineffective, Town Staff and the Board will do what is necessary to get it resolved," Emmitsburg Commissioner Tim OíDonnell wrote in an email.

Richard Lindsay is skeptical of the proposed solutions. As a Vietnam veteran, he said that heís wary of any chemicals added to the waste. He also doubted that hay would effectively minimize the odor.

"My thing is that they just donít know," Lindsay said. "Itís already bad, and itís not even summer. Imagine how itís going to be when itís 90 degrees and thereís 90 percent humidity."

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