It’s linked to businesses in township

By Michael S. Hoey


The Darien Village Board passed a resolution and authorized sending a letter July 17 to the Walworth County Board asking for its help in solving an odor problem that has plagued the village and town of Darien for about five years.

The resolution acknowledged the village has received many complaints regarding offensive environmental odors, especially during the summer months, and it identified Birds Eye Foods and Walter & Son Waste Hauling as the sources of the odor. Both of those businesses are in the Town of Darien.

Village Administrator Rebecca LeMire said because the businesses are not located in the village, no one from the village to her knowledge has spoken directly to either business. Complaints have been forwarded to the Town of Darien.

LeMire said she has talked to representatives of the Town of Darien and is not aware of any plan to correct the problem. The resolution states the village is not aware of any such plan, and the odor has had a harmful effect on the quality of life for village residents, property owners, businesses, employees and visitors and it could also lead to ill effects on property values, human health and future economic growth and development in the village and town.

Village Board President Kurt Zipp said two distinct odor problems exist – one coming from Birds Eye and one coming from Walter & Son, but the odor coming from the Birds Eye facility is more consistent and foul. Zipp said he was aware that the township has attempted to address both issues.

Attorney Brad Lochowicz said passing the resolution and requesting assistance from the County Board would make the village’s position clear to the county, which he said has the real authority to take action. LeMire said the board could refer the issue to the County Zoning Agency. That agency approved the permits for both facilities.

The letter that was approved and sent to the county identified the wastewater ponds at Birds Eye and the wastewater storage tank at Walter & Son as the sources of the odors. It said the village has received six complaints from residents and one from a business in 2017, the Enterprise has published articles about the issue, a regional television news program did a piece on it, and a resident has started a “Stop the Stink” Facebook page that contains daily posts and complaints. LeMire also made available 23 complaints that were made to the village between Sept. 6, 2014, and Sept. 22, 2016.

“It is not acceptable for our taxpayers and community members to be trapped inside during beautiful southern Wisconsin summers,” the letter stated.

The letter requests the County Zoning Agency and the County Board review the conditions of the conditional use permits issued to both businesses to ensure they are in compliance with the terms and that additional conditions be added to mitigate the offensive environmental odors.                 Janice Monahan, director of corporate communications for Pinnacle Foods, the parent company of Birds Eye Foods, said the odor problems related to the Birds Eye facility stems from the irrigation process used in the frozen vegetable processing facility, and it is usually a problem during the hot summer months.

“We’ve worked with four different consultants to review and advise on potential solutions,” she said.

Monahan said the facility has implemented new ways to add oxygen to the pond, installed a water filtration system to further purify the water that enters the pond and installed a white liner at the bottom of the pond to keep the water cooler and reduce odor.

“We are committed to being a good neighbor in the community,” Monahan said. “We continue to monitor the pond and expand methods to improve the conditions.”

Steve Walter did not return a request for comment.

Town of Darien Chairman Cecil Logterman said the village has the right to approve an ordinance and send a letter to the county and he understands why it was done. However, he also believes people have the perception the town has done nothing to try to correct the problem and he said that is not true.

“They (Birds Eye and Walter & Son) are trying something new each year,” he said.

Logterman said the town has been receiving complaints since at least 2014 and all of those complaints have been forwarded to the two businesses. He said the situation is not as simple as some make it out to be in that other businesses and farms might contribute to the odor and accurately identifying the source can be very difficult.

Logterman also said the complaints the village has received and then passed on to the township arrived at the town too late for the town to investigate where the odor was coming from.

Logterman said Birds Eye has made major investments in its facility to correct the problem, but it is a food-processing facility that will produce some odor. Logterman said the facility is in a rural area and is properly permitted. Logterman said Walter & Son has been working with a consulting firm and has been exploring adding a cover to its storage facilty. Logterman said in his opinion the business has made much progress and emitted no odor when he visited.

Logterman said the Walter facility is also set in a rural area, and the town required it to get approval from the village to operate since it would be so close to the village. The village granted that approval.

“It is a problem, but both businesses are doing everything we ask of them,” Logterman said.

Logterman said the odor is not as bad as it used to be and the number of complaints is down in the past year. LeMire disagreed with that. One of the complaints filed in 2017 also explained why the overall number of complaints might be down. Anita Loch of Maxxx Motorsports said the business has registered complaints multiple times without seeing any improvement and the reduction in complaints, if one exists, might be a result of frustration with the situation rather than a reduction in odor.

Logterman said the perception the town isn’t doing anything is not true. He said the town’s policy is to forward complaints to the businesses within 10 days, give the businesses 15 days to respond then evaluate the business plan to address the complaints.

“We have been working with both companies,” he said. “They have both done an outstanding job and have worked very hard.”

 Memorial bench

      The village will install a Philip C. Putman Memorial Bench in the greenspace next to Village Hall to honor the former trustee’s life and contributions to the village.

LeMire said the Putman family was interested in donating money toward the bench as a fitting tribute to a man who served the village as a trustee for 12 years and was dedicated to community service and his family. The family donated $1,000 and the village will cover the remaining $450.

Crosswalk for Cornfest

      The village approved spending $17,635 to install a crosswalk across Highway 14 that will provide a safer access to West Park in time for Cornfest on Sept. 8 and 9. The village will consider adding signals to the crosswalk next year.


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