FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — If you step outside in the River Valley, especially the downtown Fort Smith area, you're hit with a strong, stinky smell. 5NEWS has received numerous emails and calls about the issue, and we are getting to the bottom of it.
Fort Smith Mayor George McGill asked owners of the land in Crawford County, Denali Water Solutions, where the smell is coming from. He asked them to stop all cleanup operations until the wind calms down, and the owner of the property agreed.
Crawford County Emergency Manager Brad Thomas confirmed the origin of the smell is property off of Hale Farm Road, a dead-end street between Highway 59 and Hollis Lake.
The source of the smell is a lagoon cleanup project in the Arkansas river bottoms. Denali Water Solutions is cleaning out some agricultural byproducts that apparently have been there for years.
The smell is terrible right now because they’re taking out the byproducts and sludge, spreading it out to dry and will then remove it.
The owner told the Mayor once the wind calms down and clean up operations resume, it will take about four days to complete.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality conducted an investigation on the site. Here is their statement:
Denali Water Solutions is in the process of closing out a lagoon. In order to do this, Denali must first pump out the lagoon. Disruption of the lagoon is one cause of the generation of odors. A pump then moves the liquid-like material from the lagoon through an umbilical to a tractor that sprays the liquid into the soil. This is another source of the odor. Denali has agreed to cease the aforementioned activities until February 5, 2019 with the intention of concluding draining the lagoon by February 6, 2019. Currently, the removal work is estimated to be approximately 85% completed. This decision was made with future predicted wind direction in mind. Forecasters have predicted winds from the west which would take any odor generation to the east, away from the Fort Smith metropolitan area.
Denali Water Solutions sent Fort Smith Mayor George McGill the following letter:
Dear Mr. Mayor,
Speaking on Behalf of Denali Water Solutions, we are terribly sorry for the pungent odors that are being emitted as we complete our lagoon closure. To be perfectly clear, the odors that your constituents are smelling are coming from the work we are performing and not the neighboring sod farm.
Denali Water’s business is recycling organic residuals. Our clients are food processors that produce nutrient-rich organic residuals that cannot enter the municipal wastewater system. These organics residuals are excellent all-natural fertilizers. We pick up the residuals from their plants and give them to farmers as eco-friendly fertilizers.
During times of inclement weather, when the farmers cannot get on their fields to spread the materials, these residuals will get stored until it becomes dry enough to spread. The storage options are either gigantic tanks or lagoons. Depending on certain factors (temperature, time, residual makeup), the material can get odorous.
In October 2017, Denali Water Solutions purchased a company that provides the same types of beneficial recycling that Denali performs. When we purchased this company, we also purchased a storage lagoon that is located between highway 59 and Hollis lake that is filled with these residuals. We knew we were going to have to clean it out and close it permanently and specifically chose the month of January because we knew it would stink and there would be less people outside. Further, the winds typically blow to the east at this time of year, away from Ft. Smith.
We began cleaning out the lagoon on January 9th and we have about 2 more days’ worth of work to do before that lagoon is completely closed. We have no intentions of ever using this lagoon again for storage and are terribly sorry for the inconvenience that it has caused. We just need these last few days so we can finish and be done with it.
For the record, we have worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality with whom we have an outstanding record of compliance.
Again, we are terribly sorry and are almost finished.
Jason Golden, General Manager of Denali Water Solutions