Archived Story

Company wants to spread hog plant waste in fields

Published 10:20am Thursday, February 21, 2013

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A Minnesota company is looking to spread up to 19,000 tons a year of byproduct from the John Morrell hog processing plant in Sioux Falls across farm fields around South Dakota.

The dried, treated wastewater byproduct currently goes to the landfill.

On Monday, the Minnehaha County planning commission will take up a conditional-use permit application from Austin, Minn.-based Environmental Land Management, the Argus Leader reported.

The county planning staff is recommending the permit be denied, saying it’s likely that the proposed use would constitute a nuisance for surrounding properties with residences.

“The proposed use has the potential for odors, additional heavy traffic during the transportation of the material and attracting nuisance animals and insects,” the staff said in the report.

The John Morrell wastewater is sent to anaerobic digesters, in which microorganisms break down the biodegradable material. It then goes through a dissolved air flotation system that removes suspended oils and solids before being dewatered on a belt press.

Michael Klema, Environmental Land Management’s director of business development, said what emerges “looks like used coffee grounds.” He said it does not have an odor, and he plans to bring a sample to the Minnehaha County planning commission meeting to prove that claim.

Klema characterized the byproduct as a valuable and free fertilizer supplement rather than a waste product to be sent to the landfill.

“Only a certain amount of lucky farmers are going to get a sniff of it,” he said. “There’s not enough to go around.”

Klema said the company needs conditional-use permits in Lincoln and Minnehaha counties before it can seek solid waste permits from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The company also wants to haul the material to fields in Hanson and McCook counties, which do not require conditional-use permits.

Jim Wendte, an engineer with the DENR solid waste management program, said the state agency has about a decade’s worth of experience dealing with products such as the one ELM wants to distribute.

He said it’s somewhat akin to treated sewage sludge, which has been spread on fields for decades.

Wendte said he hadn’t seen a report detailing John Morrell’s wastewater byproduct, but he surmised that, “we would probably be dealing with something that is slightly less problematic than municipal sludges.”

Sludge from a municipal sewage plant can accumulate heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and pathogens, but the product from John Morrell is likely to contain only waste from processed hogs and some cleaning products, Wendte said.

He said that based on DENR’s experience with similar products, if they’re properly worked into the soil they are unlikely to run off because of rainfall and are not likely to migrate down and contaminate groundwater.


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