Food processing residuals are getting serious attention – because of the odor

May 21 – It’s a story that NewsTalk 103.7FM has been talking about since the beginning of the year when the issue came up in Antrim Township about Food Processing Residuals (FPRs). 

Food Processing Residuals are what comes from substances not used in meat, fruit and vegetable processing companies. It’s organic food and animal waste that could still contain some harmful bacteria. 

Sometimes FPRs are used as fertilizer on farm lands. When that happens, the neighbors surely know it because of the smell. 

Not only can the smell be quite hard to stomach, if the situation isn’t handled correctly, some of it could end up in residential wells. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This is the front page story of today’s Harrisburg Patriot and it’s a very extensive report about problems this issue is now creating in Cumberland County. Neighbors complaining they profile a retired military guy that recently moved to that area and said it’s really ruining their whole lifestyle, that the days this stuff has been spread, it lasts for days. They can’t go outside. He’s even reporting the smell is so pungent it gets into their clothes and their hair. It’s just ruining everything. He’s even reporting a lot of times they spread it at night and in the wee hours of the morning, so it’s disrupting sleep. Interestingly, in this report today, they talk about those cases from Antrim Township where there’s been some well water contamination. Now the manure spreading company according to this Patriot article, they’re saying that was not due to contamination from the actual spreading of these residuals, but there was some spillage around a manhole or an opening that seeped down into that well water and it sounds like at least those three homeowners, they now have to get new sources of drinking water, but the big takeaway is local municipalities and even at the state level, this issue is being looked at very carefully. It’s still not clear what the solution or outcome is going to be.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I spoke to, I don’t know if it was the same gentleman or a different one from that same area that told me it smells like death. That’s what they’re smelling constantly. It smells like death and you can’t get away from it. That is actually a huge imposition on your quality of life.”

Barkdoll said, “There’s another person in this article, they talk about if they’re out driving and they know this stuff is being spread, they need to turn off the vents and the air conditioners miles before they get into the area because they know even once that gets picked up in the car, that odor just lingers in the car for a long, long time and it’s hard to get rid of it. So it really is a quality of life issue.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “What is the next move here then? I think we talked about this months ago, are you looking at these trucks coming in out of state because it’s not necessarily Pennsylvania? Our rules aren’t as strict as what they’re facing in other states surrounding us. So what is the next move here?”

Barkdoll suggested, “I would imagine you may see some efforts by the DEP and/or the State Department of Agriculture at the state level to somehow regulate this. They certainly could restrict the amount that can be spread or dumped on a given farm or on a given day. They could certainly restrict the hours I think when it’s done. But beyond that, I don’t know at the local municipal level, this article today talks about some of the townships in Cumberland County. Could you outright ban it? I’m not sure. I don’t know if you could completely ban it. I think you could put a lot of restrictions around it. But I’m not sure what that looks like and of course the farm community is likely going to push back on this because they’re pointing out this stuff is valuable from a fertilizing standpoint and it’s producing higher crop yields, better products. So it’s a very complicated issue.”

Jansen said, “Other states have put more regulations around this. That’s why so much of it is getting trucked into Pennsylvania. It would be very interesting to see the restrictions that Maryland and other states around us have compared to anything we’ve done with it and maybe we’ve done nothing really with it, since this is somewhat new. You can blame the greeniacs for this or that people who don’t want this stuff dumped as it traditionally was, but seriously, though, if you’re dumping a lot, isn’t it still getting into the groundwater? Isn’t it still polluting? Even if it’s been shifted from one way they used to deal with this stuff to the way that this is supposedly better? Maybe the argument is just that because what I have heard from people living in that area is they suspect people are buying fields to be able to continuously dump this stuff, that it’s not really about producing a better crop. It’s about the monetary gain from accepting this waste and then just dumping it over and over again in the same area.”

Barkdoll said, “I would not be surprised if that’s happening either. The groundwater issue is a debate. The companies that spread this say no, there’s no evidence of it. We know those cases and Antrim Township and in Cumberland County, they’re looking at does enough of this waste start to seep down through the soil into the aquifers, particularly if you’re on a well water system? There’s where I think DEP would have to get involved. From an environmental standpoint, this stuff could be quite dangerous, if they can create that link that these residuals being spread are getting into the water.”