Deadline looms for Lowell biodigester to stop stench

Lowell Biodigester
A Sept. 6, 2016 photo of the biodigester at the center of a stench dispute in Lowell.


LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — The countdown is on for operators to stop the stink coming from the Lowell biodigester.

This week, operator Lowell Energy AD will be testing the equipment it has installed to fix the funk before the Nov. 1 deadline set by the city.

The odor seeping from the biodigester has been described as a cross between raw sewage and rotting animal carcasses and has irritated residents for months. Many have expressed skepticism of the plan to fix it.

“This is the view that we have. If you look out, there’s your biodigester,” Lowell resident Tracy Kroft showed 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday, pointing to the waste-to-energy plant that sits only about 100 yards away from his home. “When you get that southwest breeze, you don’t have this window open.”

More than being an annoyance, it has impacted the livelihood of Tracy and Marlene Kroft, who are realtors. They say buyers have more reservations about living in Lowell.

“I would hope that they would do what they say they’re going to do because anything short of that would just be an out-and-out lie,” Marlene Kroft said.

Lowell Energy AD is working to keep its promise. In a statement Tuesday, Managing Member Greg Northrup assured residents that “good progress is being made this week with the installation of the filter system, and we are on track to meet the city’s deadline for having odor under control.”

“But we’ll leave it to our neighbors to declare victory when the odor is gone — getting them permanent relief from odor has been and remains our top priority until it is accomplished,” he continued. “Meanwhile, our long-term vision remains the same — creating inexpensive energy for the Lowell community and providing an environmentally responsible way to dispose of key community wastes in the process.”

But City Manager Michael Burns was clear on what would happen if Nov. 1 rolls around and there’s still a stink coming from the biodigester:

“They are not allowed to operate,” he said.

If the unpleasant smell remains, the biodigester will have seven days after the deadline to correct the problem before being shut down.

Burns said the city has been meeting with Lowell Energy AD weekly to get updates on progress to clear the air.

“We’re sorry from that aspect. That was not something that I know the city or Lowell Light & Power ever intended,” Burns said.

“I think as a neighborhood, we’re going to follow through and make sure that they do something because we’ve tolerated this for two years now,” Tracy Kroft said.