Valley Milk says odor problem fixed

By Alex Bridges

Valley Milk may have solved the Strasburg plant’s odor problem — again.

Town Council’s Infrastructure Committee heard from plant manager Mike Curtis about steps the company has made to help eliminate the smell that often emanates from the facility on King Street.

Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr., chairman of the committee, pointed out that the odor problem has troubled the town for years.

“I think that’s no secret to anybody in town, anybody on council, staff,” Orndorff said.

Orndorff noted during his first years on council leaders dealt with the problem and his predecessor as mayor, Harry Applegate, actually appointed an odor committee of town residents to look into the ongoing issue. The issue resurfaced when Orndorff served as mayor and then in later years.

“Things would get better,” Orndorff recalled. “The odor would go away and then all of a sudden it would reappear.”

But a situation this summer caused by a malfunctioning pump at the plant sent the odor circulating through town. Town Manager Judson Rex and Director of Public Works Jay McKinley investigated the incident. Orndorff said the town received “quite a bit of complaints, even from some tourists in the area.”

Curtis and Valley Milk looked at short-term fixes to the problem as well as long-term solutions and hired an independent engineering firm to study the matter, McKinley said.

Curtis tied the odor problem to pumps that send liquids through a pre-treatment facility. Wastewater eventually goes to the town’s sewage treatment plant. Without working pumps the liquids can’t flow freely through the system, Curtis said. Liquids then stagnate and emit odors, he explained. Curtis said he rebuilt both pumps that malfunctioned and also has a sump pump available in case one breaks again.

“That’s pretty much resolved and I don’t think there’s been a huge amount of smell since that’s been taken care of,” Curtis said.

Valley Milk hired Environmental Systems Service Ltd. to look into ways the plant could prevent the odor problem. The consultant linked the odor to an equalization tank from which wastewater flows to a sump pump and goes through a biological treatment process. Approximately 9 feet of the storage container remains full and does not go through the treatment process, according to Curtis and the consultant. The fact that the equalization tank is not aerated contributes to the odor problem and the consultant recommended that the plant install an aeration system for the container. The consultant also recommended the plant reconnect the tank vent to the bio-tower, where liquid is treated, to prevent odors.

As Curtis explained, the plant also faces the problem of how to handle the increased amount of milk it receives. While the company benefits from receiving more milk, Curtis said concerns arose over whether or not the treatment facility could handle the additional waste it discharges to the town. Valley Milk would continue to communicate with the town regarding the amount of sludge and other waste it would release to Strasburg’s sewage treatment system.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or