OSAGE | At the Tuesday, Jan. 9 meeting of the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors, approval was given to terminate the lease between Mitchell County and the City of Osage regarding the wastewater treatment plant, effective Jan. 31.

In addition, the supervisors voted to enter into a new lease with Valent BioSciences for the wastewater treatment plant, to begin on Feb. 1, contingent upon the City of Osage agreeing to the lease termination.

Former Mitchell County Assessor Dean Pohren inquired if, under a new lease directly with Valent, the taxpayers would lose the ability to speak to the supervisors about the issues of odors emanating from the plant.

“It stank on Jan. 6 and 8,” Pohren said.

Pohren was advised by Supervisor Joel Voaklander, Mitchell County still owned the wastewater treatment plant and would continue to own the plant even under the new lease.

“They have assured us they want to correct the odor problem out there,” Voaklander said. “It’s not just a matter of putting chemicals in; they have to treat for other stuff. They are still struggling with temperatures and pH.”

Voaklander mentioned several different methods had been attempted in an effort to combat the odor. In 2016, it was discovered the tank scrubbers were overwhelmed and the media used in the tanks, at a cost of $10,000 to $12,000 a batch, only lasted roughly a week.

“The process had to be reworked on the tanks, so they could be emptied completely, but that takes time. They have to put in new pumps, new pads,” Voaklander said. “We’re not walking away; we're going to follow through. It’s in their best interest to fix the issue, as it’s not what they want to concentrate on.”

Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk stated a date of Memorial Day 2018 had been given by Valent as the date the company expected to have the issue handled. Pohren was quick to point out other dates had also been given in the past, including this past December, with issues of the odor still remaining.

“They have directives from Japan to fix it,” Walk said. “I truly think we are going to see results, and if not, then we will be asking about the promise they made to fix it.”

Pohren pointed out the issue has been noticed by visitors to the area, and it should not be something the Supervisors want people to associate with Mitchell County.

“I was at a funeral visitation on Jan. 6,” Pohren said, “and people from out of town were coming in and asking about the smell and what was causing it.”

With the changes that have been made at the plant since Valent began handling the supervision, including having staff in place around the clock, Voaklander said he believed the company now had a better opportunity to get everything in hand.

“Once they get the new staff trained and they are familiar with the plant, they should be able to head off problems before they go over the red lines,” Voaklander said. “Right now, they have one aerator in, and if everything is working, then it works right, but if everything doesn’t work right, then it still goes septic. It takes a lot of trial and error.”

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