Neighbors ask for relief from lingering stench at Weld County biogas plant, commissioners punt

3 of 5 concerned about unintended consequences
Posted at 12:35 AM, Nov 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-15 02:35:28-05

GREELEY, Colo. - Imagine the stench of a decaying animal tossed into your kitchen garbage can and left there for days.

That’s the kind of smell that residents, who live near the Heartland Biogas plant in Weld County, say they deal with all too frequently.

On Monday, those residents asked Weld County Commissioners for relief.

“I want the plant shut down until they can figure how to take care of these odors,” said Nancy Flippin.

Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Steve Moreno supported a move to suspend or revoke EDF Renewables’ operating permit, but Commissioners Julie Cozad, Sean Conway and Mike Freeman weren’t willing to go that far.

“I’m concerned about unintended consequences,” Conway said.

The plant, owned by EDF Renewable Energy, converts manure from local dairies, organic waste from restaurant grease traps, spoiled grocery store products, cafeteria waste and food processing residuals into natural gas, in what’s called an anaerobic digester.

Neighbors say the plant wasn’t built according to the original plans.

Kathy Hoyland told Denver7 that AGPROfessionals, who assisted in the development of the facility, sent residents a letter in 2009 stating, “there will be no emission of noxious odors from the facility.”

She said EDF Renewable Energy doesn’t believe it has to live up to the letter written by AGPROfessionals.

“All of these issues were actually known back in 2010,” said neighbor James Welch.  “They had resolutions back in 2010 and rather than put them in place, and do the right thing when the facility was built, they removed all of them.”

Welch was very graphic in describing what the stench smells like.

“Imagine putting a raw chicken into your waste can,” he said, “and you leave it there for days and days and it heats up and it’s just that raw, decaying disgusting odor.”

Hoyland said the stench has taken away her hopes and dreams.

“We have a dream home that we built for my family to come for the holidays,” she said, “and it’s unbelievable that we’ve been put in this situation.”

Denver7 tried to ask Plant Manager Jason Thomas what it will take to eliminate the odors, but he briskly walked away, without saying a word.

Thomas had earlier reminded commissioners, “This is a $100-million facility"... and... "a recession proof plant.”

He said, “This plant is good for Weld County on multiple levels.”

Thomas told commissioners that the plant is in compliance, but homeowners question whether it really is.

They take issue with the nasal ranger readings, which show only one violation since the plant has been in operation.

“I’ve never been in a room where somebody could say to me, ‘this is an 8:1 smell,’ but it would be interesting to flood this (Commissioner’s) room with a 3:1 biogas odor and see how many of you could stay here,” one homeowner said.

In arguing for suspension or revocation, Commissioner Kirkmeyer said, “We’re just being a guinea pig and quite frankly, I feel I was duped as a County Commissioner when this was first put through.”

Kirkmeyer said it wasn’t sold as a solid waste facility, but that’s what it is.

Commissioner Conway said he empathizes with the homeowners, but said there is a process that must be followed.

“I’m very wary of saying, ‘let’s just shut this down,’” he said.

The Commissioners instead voted to hold another “show cause” hearing on December 21 at 9 a.m.