Wood Pellet Facility Creates Dust Issue

Wood Pellet Facility Creates Dust Issue

- by Linda Russell, September 3, 2013. Source: KY3

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"120","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"360","style":"width: 300px; height: 280px; margin-left: 7px; margin-right: 7px; float: left;","width":"480"}}]]SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- Growing production at a pellet plant in Aurora means more jobs.  But people who live nearby say it also means a lot more sawdust, so much that it's hurting air quality there.

MFA Oil Biomass opened the production facility on Aurora's northwest side about two years ago, but this summer, they ramped up production, and along with that came clouds of dust.

"You would go outside in the morning and the air would just be filled with these fine particles of sawdust, and it would like, choke you up to breathe," says Aurora resident Diana James.

MFA Biomass is using sawdust and turning it into wood pellets for wood burning stoves.

"They're trying to contain it, but it's not working," James says.

James is one of several we spoke with who are sick of the dust.  "Today looks fine; they're not running today," she says.

MFA Oil Biomass wasn't producing Tuesday, but has been running three shifts a day since June.  They've created nine new jobs. 

"It's the first new factory that we've had in our town in a lot of years," says Aurora Interim City Manager, David Price.

The City of Aurora wants the biomass plant to make it, but acknowledges the dust issue.  "A lot of dust, a lot of sawdust.  I came out of there with a lot of saw dust on my feet, but I also understood what they were trying to do," Price says.

MFA Oil Biomass says they're working with an air quality company and have tried multiple changes to their equipment, trying solve the problem.  "We have an obligation to be citizens of the community and do a good job, but there is a balance.  Obviously, we can only do so much with it in the realms of business," says Dustin Dover of MFA Oil Biomass.

MFA says their next attempt at controlling the dust, a filter called a bag house, is on the way.

"Obviously this isn't a problem we've experienced in the past, so we weren't quite prepared for it, so the question is, is it feasible to do the whole system and still stay operational, period, not just in Aurora, but anywhere," Dover says.

James says, "In no way do we want to put anybody out of a job.   That's not our intentions.  We want the sawdust problem stopped so everybody can live in harmony around here."

They city of Aurora says MFA isn't breaking any city laws, but they are concerned for citizens' health.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has been to visit, and the city tells us it's awaiting the agency's report.