Michigan Sugar working to clear the air

BAY COUNTY (WJRT) - (06/15/16) - Depending on which way the wind is blowing, it's an unpleasant odor that welcomes you to the Bay City area.

We're talking about the Michigan Sugar plant that's just south of the city.

Sugar is sweet, but the smell that sometimes comes from this Bay County sugar beet processing plant is anything but.

"Rotting trash it smells like, I guess similar to a, maybe a baby's diaper would be a good description. It's bad, and it's, it's never been quite this bad I don't feel like," said Qwinn Shorkey, who lives across the road from the plant.

"Ninety percent of the time, honestly, it smells like a sewer," said Collin Bateham, another plant neighbor.

Other times, it's not too bad.

"The peanut butter smell, I haven't smelled as of lately," Shorkey said.

Whatever the smell, Michigan Sugar is working to clear the air. They're cleaning ponds used to store and treat water at the plant.

It's done every year, but this is the first year they're being proactive and telling neighbors about the work.

The company says organic material in the ponds is a big reason for the smell, adding that by doing this now, it should cut down on the smell long-term.

Neighbors say they'll believe it when they smell it.

"I hope so, but I kind of don't see any power behind those words," Shorkey said.

Bateham appreciates the notice, but thinks more than a thorough cleaning of the ponds is needed.

"I've got to give them credit they are trying, but it's still just the idea they can do a lot more. Honestly, they can do a lot more,” he said.

The project could continue most of the summer.

This fall, Michigan Sugar plans to begin a pilot project aimed at reducing foul odors even more.

In a statement, CEO Mark Flegenheimer said this about the project:

“Cleaning our water storage ponds is a critical step to reducing odors at our Bay City facility in the long term. We are committed to doing all we can to reduce odors through facility upgrades, new technology and new strategies, and a thorough cleaning of the water storage ponds is an important activity. We want to alert the community to this work, and let residents know that while odors will be created by this process, the pond cleaning is an important way to reduce odors in the future."

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