Rancid stench blankets parts of county Tyson set to remove smelly buildup at Ceres lagoon as early as Monday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tyson Foods will remove about 60,000 gallons of a smelly solid buildup on the surface of the sewage lagoon at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex near its plant there, a spokesman for the Springdale, Ark.-based poultry products giant said.

A suction truck is expected to begin extracting goo “either Monday or Tuesday” from the wastewater system used by industries at the 1,290-acre site at Flowers, Warren County Port Commission chairman Johnny Moss said.

Though waste from all businesses at Ceres is flushed into the lagoon, most of it comes from Tyson’s local plant, which produces cooked and uncooked chicken products to sell to various food service customers. Areas most choked by the substance are nearest the plant, on “cell 1”, where Tyson pretreats its wastes. Three additional cells extend south and empty into the Big Black River. Property owners living on large tracts on Youngton and Henry Lake roads have complained to port and company officials about a foul stench in the air for at least three months.

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“Since Tyson is one of the primary users of the Port Commission’s treatment system, our company has hired an outside contractor to help,” said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson in a statement. “The contractor will remove solids that have built up on the surface of one of the wastewater lagoons in an effort to help the treatment system function better.”

Samples were taken from the lagoon last week by ST Environmental Services, which operates the lagoon, and sent to an independent lab. Those results should determine how much of it is simply excess grease dumped in the lagoon by the plant, Warren County Port Commission officials said.

“This is a situation that should not have happened,” executive director Wayne Mansfield said. “We’re working on a long-term solution with them.”

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has not stepped in officially, though an official told Moss during the week the odor amounted to “a nuisance, not a violation.” Tyson’s permit to pre-treat wastewater is valid through November 2014, MDEQ records show.

Moss said the commission has “no assurances” they’ll find out what it is while Tyson’s hired crews are on site, though he “intends to get some,” Moss said Friday.

Wastewater treatment at Ceres has a malodorous history since the county purchased the acreage in Flowers in the late 1980s to attract commercial industries.

Warren County was fined $20,000 in 1998 after sewage from the first lagoon was blamed for a fish kill two years earlier in a nearby creek and a general stench detected over much of Flowers. A $1.2 million replacement of the lagoon, more aeration to break up solid wastes and regular maintenance followed over the next decade. Rebuilt aerators were purchased earlier this year by the commission.

Tyson’s plant opened in 1995 after the company purchased McCarty Foods, the site’s original tenant. It has operated the longest out of three remaining private businesses at Ceres — Tyson, Vicksburg Metal Products and Magnolia Metal & Plastic. A Mississippi Department of Transportation regional headquarters and the Mississippi National Guard also operate at the site.