Fowl smells in Exeter get state's attention

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The rancid smell of rotting chicken has abated in Exeter following a massive clean-up effort at the now defunct Eski-Mo Packing plant. On Saturday, five semi-trailer loads of putrefied chicken patties were hauled away from the downtown Exeter business, which closed approximately three weeks ago.

Mayor Rusty Reed is now awaiting word from officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about the fate of the 6,000-square-foot building. He would like to see the building condemned and torn down.

"They took the chicken and maggots away, but no one has been back to clean the building," Reed said. "It needs to be cleaned up and possibly torn down.

"At this point, we're not sure what we're going to do," Reed continued. "We're going to see what DNR does, and if they don't do anything, then we'll get it condemned."

The clean-up, ordered by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, was to have been completed by 5 p.m. on Saturday. The last trailer load of rancid chicken left at around 9 p.m., Reed said.

Workers who cleaned up the mess had to wear respirators because of the high ammonia levels produced by the rotting chicken. The clean-up was conducted by Advantage Waste, of Springfield, at the expense of David Jacobs, owner of the packing company who owns the former Eskimo Packing building.

The estimated 250,000 pounds of rotted chicken was transported to Black Oak Landfill in Wright County. The frozen meat allegedly began going bad when lightning struck the facility in July and shut down one of the compressors that runs the plant's refrigeration system.

Exeter city officials became concerned about the contents of the Eski-Mo plant two weeks ago when rancid-smelling liquid began running out of the building. City Clerk Myrna Eisenbraun contacted Jacobs about the situation and he told her a clean-up crew was on the way.

"His words were 'it's being taken care of as we speak,'" said Reed. "He was definitely aware of the problem."

The odor coming from the plant kept keeping worse, and finally, city officials called the Barry County Health Department whose staff then contacted Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox who in turn called DNR.

"Sheriff (Mick) Epperly also got involved and really helped us," Reed said. "He made a lot of phone calls and finally a man came down from DNR. Then things began to happen."

On Friday, DNR Director Doyle Childers issued a press release that outlined the agency's response to the Exeter situation.

"The department has issued a Hazardous Substance Declaration to Eski-Mo Packing and its principal Mr. David Jacobs, ordering the removal and proper disposal of all the rotting chicken by 5 p.m. Saturday," Childers said.

In his statement, Childers indicated that DNR's investi-gation into the incident began on Oct. 11.

"An inspection by department staff found rotting or putrefied chicken, chicken parts and constituents at the site," said Alan Reinkemeyer, chief of the department's Environmental Emergency Response section. "As a result of the investigation, the department determined this incident was a public health concern."

Since the clean-up took place, Reed said the odor coming from the plant has lessened.

"The smell is not as strong as before," said Reed who described the odor as "terrible" on Saturday.

"When they opened up the building, the smell was awful," Reed said. Many area residents reported that the odor made them feel physically ill.

City residents are still contending with a fly problem and hoping this week's warm temperatures do not worsen the smell coming from the facility.

"Right now we're just waiting for a word from DNR," Reed said.

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