Missouri town threatens to sue local plant over foul odor

Monday, March 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:02 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

CARTHAGE — Leaders in this small southwest Missouri community are threatening to sue a local plant because of a foul odor they say is hurting the town’s quality of life.

“We’ve had it,” Carthage Mayor Kenneth Johnson said of the smell many believe is coming from the Renewable Environmental Solutions plant.

The plant turns byproducts from a nearby Butterball plant into crude oil. When the plant is in full operation, it can convert 200 tons of waste into 500 barrels of oil each day.

“It’s a great idea, and I’ve been one of their staunchest supporters, because I want to see it work,” Johnson said. “But, they promised us an odor-free operation.”

Responding to complaints from resident and business owners, city officials have sent a letter to the Chicago-based firm promising to sue if the odor is not addressed within 30 days.

“We’ve got people complaining, people saying it’s hurting their business and restaurants, saying that they’re losing business because people won’t come in and eat,” Johnson said.

The city also has asked senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent and Rep. Roy Blunt to step in. Bond and Blunt helped secure a $5 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant for the plant.

Renewable Environmental Solutions officials say they are working to address odor problems, and Johnson said the company has provided a list of actions it has taken to address the smell.

Changing World Technologies developed the process to convert poultry byproducts into crude oil, then into diesel fuel and other fuel products. The company operates the plant jointly with ConAgra Foods.

“We have made a substantial investment in engineered systems and operating equipment to contain potentially offensive odors, and will continue to make adjustments and invest additional resources as needed,” Julie Gross Gelfand, a Renewable Environmental Solutions spokeswoman, said in a written statement.

Gelfand said the company wants to be a good neighbor and has not been cited by the Department of Natural Resources for any nuisance odor violations.

“We take every complaint very seriously and are committed to being responsible to community concerns,” Gelfand said.

She said there have been complaints even when the plant is not operating, which indicates there also are other potential sources of odor in the area.

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