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Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company

Biomass plant working to eliminate offensive odors
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones
Managing Editor

“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Zilkha Biomass Energy Director of Industry and Government Affairs Jesse Dickerman said about the plant’s efforts to eliminate the emission of any unpleasant odors. A Texas Commission on Environmental Quality official reported there are no toxic chemicals at the site or being emitted. Some residents and employees along East Loop 304 have complained about an offensive odor being emitted from the plant which opened Crockett last summer. “This odor gets so strong here where I work from this plant, I get nausea and have a dreadful headache,” one resident said. The resident has been communicating with the TCEQ district office in Beaumont. Another individual contacted the newspaper office last week and reported the smell was was bad and stated others in the community were complaining. At the March Crockett City Council meeting, Council Member Nathan Gardner said he had received a phone call about the plant’s odors. Crockett City Administrator Ron Duncan and Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corp. Director Thom Lambert both said the company was working to eliminate the odors. When contacted by the Courier, Dickerman explained the offensive odor is a natural by-product of acids in the hardwood being burned at the plant. The company recently made modifications to increase their production, which increased the odor, he said. Neadra Richards, a TCEQ environmental investigator, explained Zilkha Biomass Energy takes scrap wood from lumber yards, puts it in a re-activator vessel, then adds moisture and heat that produce a powerful force of steam that causes the scrap wood to explode and form pellets. The wood pellets are an alternative fuel source, used in place of coal and other oil and natural gas products, she said. Initially the company tried to use pine, which did not have the odor, but had too much sap, according to Richards. Now, the company is using hardwoods which have a higher acid content and produce the odor, according to Richards and Dickerman. Richards added that Zilkha Biomass Energy has been working on the problem since December. Zilkha Biomass Energy currently has a team of engineers on site, Dickerman said, to address the problem. About two weeks ago, the CEO for Zilkha approved modifications to eliminate the odor issues, according to Dickerman. He explained the new process will involve using a hardwood-softwood mix. “We believe this will mollify (reduce the severity of) the issue,” Dickerson said. Dickerson expects the odor issue to be resolved in the next two months. The company is spending “a significant sum” to fix the problem, Dickerson said. “We’ve been talking to all the businesses around us,” Dickerson said, “We want to be good neighbors.”

 

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