CARTHAGE — A new set of Missouri air quality regulations aren't expected to bring much relief for city officials in Carthage trying to resolve long-standing odor problems that they link to a local biofuels plant.
The rule changes being developed at the request of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission don't include stricter odor thresholds, a state Department of Natural Resources official said.
Carthage Mayor Jim Woestman urged the commission and other state panels to more strictly enforce state laws in response to odor problems attributed to Renewable Environmental Solutions, which opened in Carthage several years ago.
Woestman said Friday the city would consider enforcing its own odor laws and said he wasn't surprised the commission isn't addressing the state's odor thresholds.
Tom Flanigan, a former city councilman who takes office next month as a state representative, said he will sponsor a bill to toughen the state's response to odor problems.
The commission has asked for changes to consolidate enforcement protocol and to be more specific on when companies would have to develop odor-control plans, said Leanne Tippett Mosby with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
While the commission didn't ask to change the level of odor required before state enforcement actions kick in, Mosby said the panel did ask DNR to continue collecting data at various dilution levels.
Mosby, who has spent more than a year working with groups trying to change the state odor rules, called the commission's action a first step.
"They didn't ask us to start the formal rule-making process, just to draft some language to start to review at their next meeting, so there is plenty of time for public comment," she said. "They did consider looking at a provision related to RES, but at this point, decided they don't want to include that in a rule."
A company is now subject to state citation if it releases odors that can be detected at a dilution ratio of 7-to-1. Under that definition, RES hasn't violated the state laws since 2006.
But Woestman and other Carthage officials have lobbied for a stricter ratio after Carthage-area residents made nearly 60 complaints to DNR about odors from the area in October and November, and most cited RES as the odor source.
In some cases, DNR inspectors also noted the odors, but said they didn't reach the 7-1 dilution requirement.
RES maintains that the plant installed odor controls after being sued by the city and the Missouri attorney general's office and is not generating the odors cited in the most recent complaints. The company's attorney repeated that argument before the commission in October, and said there is no need for state odor rules to single out RES.
Mosby said the DNR will continue working with Carthage to investigate the source of the odors. She said a state survey of the odor problems received 474 complaints from people who said they were bothered by odors from the city's industrial area, which includes RES.
She said information from that survey, such as weather conditions, will help investigators better study the problem and its likely source.
Flanigan said his proposed legislation would boost the fines assessed on companies that had multiple citations of violating state odor regulations. He said that with a lower dilution level, the law "would give the state some teeth."