Busy activity at MFS composting site, some odor complaints persist | Local News

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GOOD THUNDER – The MFS composting facility near Good Thunder is seeing demand for its composted food waste soar and managers say they are taking action beyond what is necessary to ensure they are operating in accordance with state and county guidelines.

MFS stopped collecting food waste from area businesses in the spring of 2019. The facility was plagued by ongoing complaints from neighbors about odors and concerns about PFAS control in its water basin.

The facility reopened last fall after working on materials that were on site and treating its pond water. MFS has been granted the blessing of Blue Earth County to operate with a variety of requirements under conditional use license and county license.

The facility collects food by-products and waste from food processing plants in the area and turns them into compost that is spread on agricultural fields and used in gardens.

Manager Max Milinkovich said that while there has been little demand for such compost in the past, more and more farmers are finding that it helps them reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and better retain humidity.

“We made 400 to 500 tonnes of this product the first year we started doing it three years ago. We do so much in a day now,” Milinkovich said.

While much of it is sold to farmers by Ag Solutions of Mapleton, MFS still keeps compost on site for area residents to come and buy. “And we ship a lot to Mankato and the area for people to use in their gardens.”

He said farmers spread a thin layer of compost over their fields. “Maybe 3 tons per acre, so that’s not much.”

He said some farmers have reduced their use of synthetic fertilizers from 150 pounds per acre to 50 pounds per acre.

Milinkovich said being able to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers helps protect groundwater, and composting food waste prevents it from entering landfills.

Still concerns

While county inspectors who visit the site regularly and state regulators say they haven’t found any problems at the MFS since it reopened, some neighbors say there have always been odor issues.

“This spring was pretty awful,” said Brian Severns, who lives about half a mile away. “If the wind was coming your way, you had to close your windows.”

Severns, who has lived there for 22 years, said he knows what the pigsties look like and there are smells associated with farming in the country. But he is convinced that the odors he and his neighbors encountered came from the composting facility.

He said the odor issues had improved recently, but he and his neighbors were still skeptical about the installation. “Hopefully it will continue to improve.”

Mike Stalberger, director of property and environmental resources for Blue Earth County, said his office received complaints this spring, but neither the county nor the state noted any issues at MFS.

“We communicate with MFS and inspect them weekly. All of our inspections operate them under their conditional use permit and county licensing program. The state was also down and found no issues.

“We don’t see the same issues as reported,” Stalberger said.

Milinkovich said MFS hired a nationally trained third-party “ranger” company that came to the property and performed a dozen odor test points on the MFP property adjacent to it. and close to neighbors property.

The test, he and Stalberger said, showed the odors in the area were general agricultural odors and not from the composting operation.

“The issues that caused the odors two years ago have been fixed,” Stalberger said. “But we follow up on all the complaints we receive. We listen to people. They may think we are not, but we react.

Water analysis

Milinkovich said MFS has also been diligently testing its water collection pond, although it’s not necessary.

Many food composting facilities have or have had problems with PFAS in water. So-called “eternal chemicals” are widely used synthetic chemicals found in many products including nonstick cookware, commercial household products, cosmetics, food packaging, and more.

Compostable food packaging can carry chemicals through composting facilities and water collection ponds.

“We test twice a year and we don’t have to. We’re just doing it for ourselves,” Milinkovich said, noting that some tests showed traces of PFAS but were “well below state (standards).”

Milinkovich said he thinks they’ve avoided PFAS issues because they’ve been particularly mindful of the food waste they’ve been accepting since reopening. “Some places accommodate a lot of things that contain waste. We are above what other (facilities) require.”

Milinkovich said almost everything they consume is “pre-consumer food sources,” which means it hasn’t been packaged but is by-products that come straight from food factories. food production.

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