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Something stinks in Scribner: Residents complain about corn-milling byproduct stench

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 10:02 PM CST
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SCRIBNER, Neb. (WOWT) - Crops have been harvested and so many farm fields are open. But a fertilizer being spread on land northwest of Omaha is raising complaints about an unnatural smell.

Long before the push to wear masks many residents in and around Scribner have often covered their noses.

“It’s not very nice to walk out of the building here and get hit in the face with that smell. We’re farmers and part of the farming community for its expected somewhat it’s just been really strong lately,” said Angie Brainard, a librarian.

An odor in town is a big subject at the library and city hall next door.

“It’s frustrating for a lot of people not being able to go outside when it smells bad enough,” said Elmer Armstrong, Scribner City Administrator.

Scribner’s city attorney sent Dodge County a complaint letter about 60 tons of corn milling byproducts being stored at the old airbase south of town. The gypsum and biomass hauled to area farm fields to be spread out as fertilizer.

Many who live in and around Scribner say that byproduct being dumped here doesn’t have your typical ag smell.

Eric Hanson raises goats and hogs less than a half-mile from the storage site.

“There’s a very distinct smell to it. It’s a non-ag smell. We’re in the agronomy area but it’s not an agronomy thing,” Hanson said.

Environmental Land Management manages the byproduct storage and spreading and in a recent letter to Dodge County states, “we will be conducting an odor study.”

A neighbor and native of New Zealand says he’s never breathed this kind of air before.

“If you were in my basement now ‚you would still smell it from yesterday, it just gets into your clothes -- it gets into your hair,” said Phil Manderson.

The company letter states recycling valuable food byproducts resulted in many local farmers saving on fertilizer costs when every dollar counts.

“These people have had a number of years of taking the benefits from it and it’s just run its course,” Hanson said.

But neighbors say countless days forced to breathe the odor doesn’t pass the smell test.

“Enough is enough with the smell and the flies,” Hanson said.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will investigate odor complaints when one is filed.

Inspectors did find a violation of fertilizer leaking into a small pond but the company claimed that’s been corrected.

The odor issue will go before the Dodge County Board of Commissioners early next month.

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