Lowell’s Biodigester a Bust

The city of Lowell has recently been in an uproar regarding the biodigester due to the intense stench being emitted from the machine. With four citations from the Lowell Police Department and several citizen complaints, Lowell City Council has ordered the city attorney and city manager to shut down the biodigester.

Diagram Courtesy of GFE Energy

The biodigester was implemented to increase the resources for the farming community of Lowell. A biodigester is like a stomach. It is fed with organic material, which is decomposed by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment to produce renewable energy known as biogas which is methane and carbon dioxide. Biodigesters also create other material that is mainly used as fertilizer, which greatly benefits the numerous farmlands across the community of Lowell.

Although the biodigester offers great benefits, the citizens of Lowell describe the stench as a mixture between human waste and decaying animal carcasses. The company that runs the waste-to-energy plant, Lowell Energy AD, previously said that it had met the Nov. 1 deadline to get rid of the smell by installing a carbon filter system and completing duct work. Residents are still complaining of it and Lowell Energy AD has been cited four times since November 5th resulting in a total of $1,200 in fines.

Lowell’s biodigester (Image courtesy of Wood TV 8)

Monday November 21, Lowell City Council held a meeting to discuss the biodigester with Webster Environmental, the company that Lowell Energy AD hired in hopes of correcting the odor problem. With no solutions that solved the smell, Lowell City Council fired multiple questions at Webster Environmental such as “How can we convince everyone that it’s going to be OK?” Bruce Koetter, Vice President of Webster Environmental responded summarizing that it is not possible  to have a completely odor free biodigester, but that he is completely confident in the technology to contain the odor and that there is nothing else he can do to improve the situation they are currently in.

Residents did not respond well to these answers which resulted in some of them standing up at the Council meeting and expressing their disgust and hatred toward the whole situation with a unanimous opinion of this “being terrible for everyone.” Lowell City Council did a great job of sticking up for the residents and truly making sure all questions were being asked of the Lowell Energy AD and Webster Environmental.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike DeVore stated that he personally would like to see all operations halted due to negligence from both Lowell Energy AD and Webster Environmental. The rest of Lowell City Council supported this statement which led to the final decision of the biodigester to be shut down. The city attorney and city manager will need to get a court order to cease operations of the biodigester while Lowell Energy AD has the option to appeal.

 

 

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