Norbest, Moroni City work to reduce odor from waste-lagoon

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

Aug. 31, 2017

 

MORONI—Norbest and Moroni City are working together to find a satisfactory solution to the problem of odors coming from the new Norbest waste lagoon, according to city leaders and a community representative on a new Norbest community advisory board.

“The council and I have been in constant contact with Norbest and Norbest with us.” Mayor Luke Freeman told the Messenger Monday. “Norbest attended our August (city council) meeting and presented on the lagoon as well as on our ongoing partnership with the city waste water treatment plant.

“We feel the odor has improved significantly and believe it will continue to (improve).  The lagoon is still new and will take time to set up, but it is important that our citizens are not adversely affected.”

At the Aug. 8 council meeting, Brad Aldridge, an artist and Moroni resident who lives two blocks from the plant, said the odor has diminished but not enough to be bearable for residents on the south side of town.

“I just want to make sure you’re continuing to look for solutions rather than hoping (problems) resolve themselves,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge is a member of the advisory board Norbest formed earlier this year. Aldridge says the panel had met twice since its creation earlier this year. He said he also sat down with Norbest CEO Matt Cook to talk about what was being done about the odor.

“We had a meeting, and discussed some solutions, and it made me a little more hopeful and patient about the issue,” Aldridge said at the council meeting.

Aldridge said Norbest had been spraying an odor-control solution over the lagoon, but Cook had told him it was a very temporary solution.

“Imagine spraying Febreeze over a sewer,” Aldridge said.

He added that only a certain amount of the spray could be used, because at certain levels, the solution impedes the waste treatment process and could lead to additional contaminants in the water.

According to Aldridge, Cook had told him in their meeting that one of the main options Norbest was considering was a floating cover over the lagoon. The cost of such a cover is not prohibitive, but a potential side-effect of covering the lagoon would be a buildup of methane gas, which can be flammable, under the cover.

Possible solutions to a methane buildup include finding a filtering method or burning the gas off like some fossil fuel refineries do.

Norbest will confirm the viability of a cover by the end of the month, Aldridge told the city council, and if found to be a workable solution, the cover could be installed as soon as winter. The sooner the better, he said, because fluctuations in temperature could stir up lagoon and exacerbate the odor.

Aldridge suggested to the council that if a viable solution could not be found, perhaps annexing the Norbest property, so it falls into Moroni’s jurisdiction instead of the county’s, could provide funding to solve the problem or for use in improving the city.

“If they are going to continue to inconvenience the citizens of Moroni, we should at least be getting compensated in some way,” Aldridge said. “If the town is going to stink, at least we could see pretty parks and roads out our window.”

Mayor Freeman, who also works as Norbest food safety and quality assurance director,  told the Messenger that the council had weighed the option of annexation in the past but felt it would be counter-productive in solving the real issue.

“We have researched general points currently on annexation, but it is not a viable option at this point. The city would need to provide additional support and infrastructure potentially to Norbest, if annexed, which we currently do not have the capability to do nor funds. In addition, even if the facility was annexed, the lagoon would still be on private property and best addressed via working with Norbest.”

Aldridge himself told the council annexation might be opening Pandora’s box.

“I think a concern is, if you annex, do you take on Norbest’s environmental problems,” he said. “If there is an environmental violation, does the city become liable for that? If I created an environmental hazard with my business in Moroni, I wouldn’t expect the city to pay for it; I think people would come after me for it.”

Another citizen, Paul Green, spoke up at the Aug. 8 meeting. Green asked the council if the city had seen any documentation about the safety of the lagoon.

“Did you just take their word for it?” Green asked. “What about mosquitoes nesting out there? They could be carrying West Nile Virus. We have children running around here.”

Council members said they had not seen any specific documentation, but a Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) representative had been on site and had issued Norbest a ground water discharge permit to build the lagoon.

Scott Whitman, a Norbest representative present at the meeting, said the state had sent out inspectors from several departments.

He gave details about lagoon safety features, including an $80,000 leak-prevention system. Whitman said he was firm in his belief that the lagoon had been engineered with safety in mind.

“Rest assured,” Whitman said, “if the state shows up any time with more tests, we are not worried.”

Freeman said Moroni City’s priority has been and remains ensuring the best environment for the city and its citizens.

“Moroni City and Norbest have had a long relationship together over the years and one that we hope continues as long as it is mutually beneficial to both parties,” he told the Messenger. “We feel the current approach of working with Norbest is the best option now and has been beneficial thus far, but we do continue to review additional potential options.”