Plymouth residents complain of ‘horrific’ smells as sludge plant plans for technology change

Posted March 06, 2013, at 10:41 p.m.

PLYMOUTH, Maine — Representatives from Soil Preparation Inc. in Plymouth called a public informational meeting in order to tell residents about planned changes to the facility on Wednesday night.

However, the residents were more concerned about pollution currently coming from the plant — namely the smell.

“The smell is sometimes horrific,” said Teresa Grant, a Plymouth resident.

Soil Preparation Inc. has processed sludge and dewatered septage through advanced alkaline stabilization with subsequent accelerated drying, or the N-Viro Soil Process, since 2000, according to a DEP memorandum. The afterproduct is used in farming.

“I have put up with this for over 12 years — the odor,” said Linda Seavey. “The position where I am located on Route 69, it’s taken away my lifestyle. It’s taken away being able to go outdoors. It makes you sick to your stomach.”

More than 30 Plymouth residents attended the two-hour meeting at the Plymouth Grange Hall. The meeting was a required step in the approval process for the facility change.

SPI plans to modify its existing solid waste processing facility license on the Valley Road. It won’t expand its current physical footprint or material processed, but it will incorporate new technology, according to SPI President Phil McCarthy. The plant employs about 30 people and the company has invested millions of dollars into the new technology, he said. If the new technology is approved, he plans to make the switchover in January 2014.

McCarthy said the new system will consist of a dryer, gasifier and process heater. The new system will see an 80 percent volume reduction.

It should also cut down on the smell, said attorney Andrew Hamilton of Eaton Peabody, who is representing SPI.

“This has been a very diligent, laborious exercise to make sure that you have technology that’s going to work. I think you’re going to see a facility that’s ready to make the next step,” said Hamilton. “Are we going to eliminate odors down to zero? I doubt it. But it will be much better.”

For each person in the audience who spoke, they were asked to place a push pin into a map of where their residence was located in order to get a picture of where the smell from the plant was traveling. All nine pins were within a mile of a facility, and most were southwest of the plant.

Seavey said she would like to move, but can’t.

“I cannot live in my home anymore the way it is. I would put it up for sale, but we all know where our property value [has gone], especially over the last five years,” she said. “It’s not right that a business would do this to the citizens of the town.”

David Cameron said he was also bothered by the smell.

“I always dreamed of living in the middle of the woods. I built a house in the middle of the woods off Route 69. It smells like crap,” he said. “I’m concerned about the water quality and the air quality. I don’t want anything breathed into my lungs that will be detrimental to my health. I don’t want to be put on oxygen for some crap coming out of the smokestack.”

Representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection also answered questions from the audience.

“We’re trying to bring a new, green technology to the soil preparation,” said McCarthy in December. “The process basically uses bio solids to dry itself, gasify it and create a closed-loop system.”

Currently, only a facility in Sanford, Fla., uses the same process that SPI wants to bring to Plymouth.

“If I didn’t believe in it, we wouldn’t be doing it,” said McCarthy.

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