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Smell Permeates Grapeland Area

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Over the last several days, a distinct stench has wafted through the Grapeland area. Residents have complained they have not been able to go outside without becoming nauseated by the smell.

Homeowners have talked about selling their homes and leaving Grapeland because of the stink. Petitions have been circulated on social media calling for something to be done about the wretched aroma.

All of these are valid complaints and point to one source – the Darling Ingredients plant located at 834 FM 227E in Grapeland

While the smell had subsided – somewhat – by the end of the week, beginning on Wednesday, calls were placed to Darling in an effort to find out the cause of the odor.

To the corporation’s credit, the phone calls were returned promptly and on Friday, Aug. 2, Melissa A. Gaither, VP of Investor Relations and Global Communications for Darling, issued a formal statement.

In the e-mail received from the VP, Gaither stated the company was aware of the issue and had been working diligently to resolve the matter.

The correspondence reads: “Darling Ingredients, Inc. operates a poultry conversion facility in Grapeland, Texas. The company is a developer and producer of sustainable natural ingredients from edible and inedible bio-nutrients for use in the production of pharmaceuticals, food, pet food, feed, fuel, bioenergy, and organic fertilizer.”

Gaither’s e-mail further stated, “We care about the communities where we operate and want to address any community concerns about our operations. Our Grapeland facility utilizes state-of-the-art technology in terms of the processes and process controls and we meet or exceed all federal, state and local requirements.

“With the recent concerns raised about an odor profile from the facility,” the statement continued, “Darling management is and will continue to evaluate the operation for issues and improvements. Like many agriculturally linked businesses, summer temperatures can present unique challenges that can influence the odor profile from time to time.”

“Darling is very concerned about our impact on the community and we will make every effort to learn from and apply any preventive measures identified. Please know that Darling strives to be a good neighbor, providing critical services to our food industry customers to produce valuable ingredients for the food, feed, fuel, and fertilizer industries,” Gaither indicated.

“Darling worked in cooperation with the City of Grapeland, the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation, Houston County, and other regional representatives to bring this facility to the area and the facility has had a positive economic impact to the community,” the statement concluded.

Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey was also contacted concerning the smell and indicated he had been in contact with members of the Darling executive team in an attempt to fix the problem.

The mayor said the smell had first been reported in early July but the reports were sporadic “… but then about July 17, it started happening more often. We have been in contact with them (Darling) and each time there were little problems they found and fixed. Being that it is a new plant, you can expect that. But, then it got to be consistent.”

Dailey said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had been called in to help assess the problem, along with Grapeland city employees and Darling specialists.

 “I understand that today (Aug. 1) they had corporate officials down here to try and figure out what was going on. I haven’t received a report back from TCEQ and it will probably be Monday or Tuesday before I can get in touch with them,” he said.

“They (Darling) are concerned,” Dailey emphasized. “They have called us and said they are doing everything they can to figure this out, as far as where it’s coming from.”

As the discussion continued, the mayor said a little over a week ago, Darling had informed him of some cuts/splits in the linings of the wastewater containers.

“It was reported to me on Friday (July 26) that it was fixed. But – we had the problem again on Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday morning. It’s obviously something else, other than that. Every time I have worked with them, they have been great to work with in trying to locate any problems,” he said.

The mayor said while he believed Darling was doing everything within its power to resolve the problem, he asserted the residents of Grapeland had a legitimate complaint about the odor.

He also said the city had “… gone and checked every single one of our waste water lines and all of our lift stations, just to make sure this wasn’t something from the city. Also, we want to be partners with them to help them fix the problem and to be of any assistance that we can.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.