A situation that truly stinks.
By Kathy Morrison
Though I thought to open this article with “Something is rotten in Denmark”, I remembered more apt words from The Bard. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare wrote, “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril.” Those of you who have had to live with the Holton/Brunswick area putrid stench know these words ring true. For those of you driving down M-120 in the right wind conditions and wondering what horrible thing is rotting near the road, let me explain.
At some point in the past few years, several huge lagoons for holding the wastewater (aka “digestate”) from the Fremont Digester were built along M-120, between Brunswick and Holton, not far from “THE” turkey farms. In February of this year, we received a letter signed by Arron Slater of Slater Custom Farms, LLC and by Dan Meccariello, General Manager of the Generate Fremont Digester, LLC, explaining that the material would be spread as fertilizer by Slater Custom Farms, on land that adjoins our land in Holton Township. The letter arrived from a third party consulting firm, on paper with no letterhead, no address or email contact info of those who signed it, and included land maps from 2001, showing lands that were no longer owned by the same people and were incomplete in their identification of the fields when compared to the written descriptions.
They called the material an “organic fertilizer”. Ah, there it is again - that word – “organic” being bandied about, fooling people into thinking you are doing something good for the environment. Organic with a capital “O” would not contain plastics in any form. I would challenge the Fremont Digester to prove that there is no plastic, macro or microscopic sized, in the digestate now being spread on area fields. From the envelope to the letter to the mismatched maps, the entire mailing immediately sent up red flags.
Fast forward several months. The parade of silver tankers going up and down Maple Island Road, to and from the Fremont Digester to the lagoons on M-120, filling and refilling the lagoons with the stinking liquid digestate material. Soon after, Slater Custom Farms began spreading it on local farm fields. We are now frequently bombarded with a foul stench that drives us from our yard and into the house, where, it is not much better because we have no air conditioning.
The proverbial “stuff” has literally hit the fan. Last night to stay cool, I had a room fan on and woke this morning to what smelled like sewage in my bedroom. It woke everyone else in the house as well. Obnoxious, putrid, horrible, and rancid. This is not anything Great Grandma Morrison would recognize as “good country air”. This is not the occasional and acceptable smell from a manure spread that lingers for a few hours, or a few days at worst. This is nauseating. The smell is always hitting someone in the area depending on which way the wind blows. Most people living in and around the Brunswick and Holton area have been subjected to this multiple times a day, depending on their location from the lagoons and the wind conditions. When we smell it at our farm, people south of the lagoons are stink free. When the wind switches and blows from the North, they get it and we can enjoy our yard and home. We have been driven indoors multiple times this year. Several times, our dismayed friends and relatives visiting have been treated to our rotten smelling neighborhood air and I can kiss that idea of a farm- stay B and B out the window.
I have used more scented candles, incense, and essential oils in the past three months than I have in several years. Some people who live closer to the lagoons smell it almost constantly. My heart breaks for them because I can only imagine if I had to put up with this every hour of every day. I can imagine that anyone living within nose shot of the lagoons will see a drop in their house resale value. If I were at a home viewing and smelled what we get a blowing in from the south, I would walk out and buy elsewhere.
The DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) was recently renamed EGLE(Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy). They have been notified and are trying to bring the Fremont Digester into compliance with regulations. I know that regulatory processes can move slowly and making companies and farms comply with regulations can take a time, but that is no consolation to the people who are living with this horrible smell in the meanwhile. If the whole concept of a Digester plant is to create “green” energy by capturing the bio-gas and using it to generate electricity for area homes, I ask, what is “green” about people living near the lagoons being forced to close up their houses on lovely days when the windows used to be open and instead, run the air conditioning or furnace fans with charcoal filters to get away from the stench.
I really wanted to try to be humorous in some way, bringing some bit of levity to the issue while writing this, but there is NO funny about it. It stinks, figuratively and literally. So if you are driving by this neck of the woods and smell something foul and rotten along M-120 that makes you wonder if you just drove past 200 overfilled Porta- Jons at a music festival, you will know that it is just the new normal out this way.
Please feel free to contact me for more information through our farm Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009974053561.
Additionally, Holton – Be Active group on Facebook has frequent posts regarding the issue as does the Facebook group page: Fremont Digester and Lagoon Updates
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