Residents Say It Smells Like Death in Estherville

Residents of a northwest Iowa town say they’re being overwhelmed by the stench from a nearby rendering plant.

Estherville residents have filed more than 300 odor complaints against the Central Bi-Products plant, mostly since May, said Emmet County zoning administrator Barb Bohm.

County Supervisor Jeff Quastad said he’s spent hours talking with frustrated residents. He describes the odor from the plant as “like death, like rotting flesh.”

“It’s the most putrid smell I’ve ever smelled,” said resident Sandy Clayton.

The plant takes livestock carcasses and processes them into greases and other materials that can be turned into feed and industrial products.

The county Board of Supervisors has decided to pursue fines against the plant for violating its use permit by leaving dozens of trucks each carrying up to 30,000 pounds of decomposing animals in the sun while waiting to be processed, Quastad said. The company has also failed to take reasonable action to control the plant’s odor, he said.

The plant’s problems were caused in part by a fire and a management change, said Dan Hildebrandt, CEO of Farmers Union Industries, which is the parent company of Central Bi-Products.

Hildebrandt told supervisors the company is working to make improvements, including constructing a larger building around the existing facility to allow for more room to unload animals and wash trucks. The company plans to move fewer animals until the improvements are complete, he said.

“We cannot guarantee no odors altogether, but we will have much less,” Hildebrandt said.

The company could be fined up to $750 per day for an initial violation, with fines up to $1,000 for repeat offenses, according to the county’s zoning ordinance. The maximum penalty would be $5,000, officials said.