Village of Belgium trustees are now convinced canning company is committed to addressing complaints
The two most vocal critics of Lakeside Foodsâ efforts to eliminate the odors coming from its wastewater lagoon system in Belgium turned into big fans of company after meeting with officials and learning whatâs being done.
Trustees Ken Hirschmann and Jason Acevedo told the board Monday that they believe the company is on the right track and has a plan that will solve the problem.
âThey know they have a problem. Theyâre working on it very hard,â Hirschmann said. âBut itâs not going to happen overnight.â
Lakeside Foods is installing a new aeration system that will keep the wastewater moving year-around, which should eliminate the foul smells in spring. The current system is shut down in winter, and the odor is worst in spring when use of the lagoon starts up again. The new aerators will keep the water moving, even under ice.
In addition, two filtering systems will remove much of the solids before it enters the lagoon.
âWhen bacteria is alive, it doesnât stink,â Acevedo said. âWhen itâs dead, it stinks. Itâs very impressive what theyâre doing. I want to say, âHats off to them.ââ
He also praised Neil Anderson, wastewater superintendent, who told the board the company is working on the problem and committed to solving it, but that vegetable waste is difficult to treat.
âSeeing you interact with them, I have more faith in what you said because I see what youâre talking about,â Acevedo told Anderson.
âRealistically, I think the village is looking at one to 1-1/2 years of smells. Whatâs taking so long is they were so quick to react to try to make the village happy. Everything theyâve done up until now hasnât produced the results theyâre aiming for.â
The odors were particularly bad this year because the lagoon was drained so the new system can be installed, Jeromy Nickelsen, Belgium plant manager, had said.
Currently, green beans are being canned and the wastewater is easy to treat. However, when beets and potatoes are canned, there is more starch, sugar and dirt involved.
The villageâs wastewater treatment plant treats effluent with a biochemical oxygen demand of 250, which is the same for green beans, but potato waste has an oxygen demand more than 60 times higher, Anderson said.
The trustees told Nickelsen he should update the companyâs complaint line to inform people whatâs being done.
âTheir goal is to work with the community. I was skeptical of the things they were doing after all these years with the smell,â Acevedo said. âThey know theyâre stuff. They need to be more proactive on their answering service.
âWhenever thereâs a smell, I call and as soon as thereâs a beep, I start yelling. I was extremely negative. I canât stand the smell.â
It was also suggested that information on what Lakeside is doing to reduce the odors be put on the villageâs Web site and in its newsletter
Anderson will serve as the liaison between the company and the Village Board, Acevedo said.
âBe patient because when they change systems, it takes time to work out the bugs,â Anderson said. âThe odors in the spring when they start up should be less with the ability to keep the process alive through the winter.â
Hirschmann said he asked Nickelsen to come to a meeting once a quarter to update the board, and he agreed to do that.
âHe wants to work with us and doesnât want to be the bearer of bad news all the time,â Hirschmann said.
The improvements will cost between $125,000 and $500,000, Nickelsen has said.