New owners of smelly Lowell biodigester have plans to re-open

Biodigester revival

LOWELL, MICH. - Remember that terrible smell in Lowell late last year? 

There are some big concerns by people in the community it could be coming back now that the biodigester facility has a new owner.

We've learned local company Advanced Water & Energy Solutions LLC (AWES) now owns the property on Chatham Street. The biodigester was formerly operated by Lowell Energy AD and was manufactured at a cost of $6 million to turn waste into energy.  It was supposed to process manure, fat, oils and grease and turn it into electricity. 

But a terrible smell percolated around town for months. In November, the situation came to a head when two malfunctions happened, including a tank rupture, causing waste to noticably seep out of the facility.  The facility was closed dowm permanently at that point.

Over the last several months, AWES acquired the biodigester from Lowell Energy AD and is now looking to re-open a part of the facility.  AWES wants to start processing wastewater from the Litehouse Foods plant in Lowell.  Litehouse is having to truck wastewater to Muskegon, at the moment, causing considerable cost to the company.  AWES leaders believe they have the best solution to fix the wastewater issue at Litehouse.

But city leaders aren't so sure they want AWES to operate the facility.

"The biodigester is not operational and the City is not considering issuing a permit at this point," Lowell City Manager Michael Burns said.  "The City and Lowell Light and Power are working with Litehouse to explore a variety of options for wastewater treatment. We look forward to sharing potential solutions at an upcoming public meeting."

AWES President Ross Pope will be answering our questions tomorrow at the biodigester's property.  Pope recently went around to neighbors in the area to explain his company's intentions.

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