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Stinky biodigester in Lowell still working on way to curb odors

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
A biodigester under construction in Fremont, MI in 2013.

A biodigester could be temporarily shut down if the operators can’t figure out how to stop foul smells from wafting over the city of Lowell. This week the Lowell city council voted to instruct its attorney to send a letter to operators to shut down the biodigester until the smell is gone.

The biodigester converts beer waste, salad dressing and manure into methane gas that powers a turbine and generates electricity.

Greg Northrup, a managing partner of the digester, acknowledges smell is still an issue, but he says it should be resolved in the next few days.

“We’ve taken care of 99% of odors on site,” Northrup said, “It’s been more of a challenge than we anticipated.”

City manager Mike Burns says residents complained about the smell all summer and the operators kept promising to fix it.

“I think that’s where the level of frustration is,” Burns said, “I don’t think there’s any level of trust among many people in the community with the operators of the biodigester.”

Burns says the operators have made significant investments to fix the problem.

“But there’s still a smell,” he said.

Burns said city council voted this week to instruct the city attorney to draft a letter demanding the bidigester stop operations until the issue is fixed. Northrup says the company hasn't received it yet.  But he says the biodigester hasn’t has feed stock in 6 weeks. Right now only waste water from the salad dressing processor is being accepted.

Northrup expects to have the problem resolved this week. 

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Enterprise Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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