State: Creamery is whey off - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman: News

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State: Creamery is whey off

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Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 7:29 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Thu Aug 30, 2012.

WASILLA — Matanuska Creamery and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation are at odds over where and how the creamery can dispose of its waste byproducts.

The creamery has been without a septic service at its current location since 2008 and has hauled human waste to Anchorage for disposal. But milk waste is hauled to Point MacKenzie and sprayed on hay fields, or it dumped at a site near the intersection of Church and Schrock roads.

It’s the Church Road site that has become problematic.

“There appears to be some pits that were dug; however, when I found them doing that yesterday (Thursday) they were not using the pits they were just dumping it on the ground back at the end of one of the fields,” said Oran Woolley, environmental engineer with DEC in Wasilla.

He said the creamery is not allowed to do that.

Karen Olson, president of Matanuska Creamery, said in an email and a phone interview that she thought they were.

“The Church Road property has been in agricultural use since the 1960s. We were told by DEC in 2008 that state statutes did not address the manufacturing byproduct at all, but that dumping the wastewater on agricultural lands was fine,” Olson said.

Complaints about the practice started coming in this year, she said.

“A few weeks ago, DEC asked if we would consider hauling only to Point MacKenzie because the troopers were called,” Olson said. “I said we’d try to haul there some of the time, but that it was much more expensive to do so, and I reminded the caller we had been told that dumping the water on ag land was OK.”

The cost difference is significant for the creamery, she said. Hauling the plant’s milk waste to Point Mac costs $6,000, but the cost is only half that to use the Church Road site, Olson said.

She said that on Thursday, when Woolley came out to the site, her driver was told to stop dumping and she was told that whatever agreements she had with DEC were not in writing and that they were no longer valid.

“I have been told that dogs and children who trespass on the property don’t like the mud, and that when the wind is wrong there is an objectionable smell,” she said. “Not sure either of those should rise to the level of trooper and/or DEC involvement, especially since what we have been doing for the past several years has been known and approved. It adds calcium and pH buffering to the soil, and there is no smell after the water breaks down.”

Woolley said that the wastewater does, indeed, smell terrible. He said it’s not quite industrial waste and not quite sewage. It’s whey left over from cheese making added to milk flushed out of the tanks and the water used to clean the tanks. Everything in it is organic, though. He said there is no threat to any waterways, but that if it did somehow wind up in a stream it would kill fish.

He said the land in question actually belongs to the state Department of Natural Resources. Olson said she has a 55-year lease of the land that is good until 2023.

“The creamery has a lease on that state land from DNR and so I am currently working with the Department of Natural Resources to come up with a consequence,” Woolley said. “I’m sure there will be something.”

Olson said the creamery will stop dumping there and find some way to accommodate the extra $3,000 in dumping costs. Meanwhile, the creamery is trying to relocate to a place where it can hook into some kind of septic service.

“We are working very hard to move to a location where we do not have to haul, and this should be accomplished within a matter of a few months,” she said.

Olson said the creamery has plans to relocate to a site connected to the city of Wasilla’s wastewater system. She said Wasilla has agreed to accept the waste.

She said she’d like to talk to local farmers interested in using the nutrient-rich milk waste to enrich their land.

Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at or 352-2270.

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  • Reflection2012 posted at 9:44 am on Tue, Aug 21, 2012.

    Reflection2012 Posts: 1

    Sadly, the "hay field" in question has not been productive in at least five years. The lease was renewed, and a house built on the SW corner at Church Road, but it has not been harrowed, planted, or harvested but about twice in the 10 years I've lived next to it.

    THANK YOU DEC FOR CHECKIN INTO THIS! If the whey had been spread on a working field, then I'd understand it. But to just dump this REALLY SMELLY waste is very, very wrong. "When the wind is wrong" is a joke as there are homes within nose distance on ALL SIDES of this field. What is the punishment ofr baiting bears? The Little Susitna River is very close to here.

    Sadly, as this is a forgotten corner of the MSB and State, dumping of waste, trash, unwanted pets, cars and meth lab waste will continue in the area until people really get mad and stand up for what is right.

  • willphish4food posted at 7:39 am on Mon, Aug 20, 2012.

    willphish4food Posts: 10

    In past times a dairy would be linked to a hog farm. Milk byproducts and soured milk would be piped over to the pigs, who grew quickly on the rich feed. Disposal of the milk waste was taken care of, and the pigs brought in a good income. The pig waste was used as fertilizer.

  • palmerboy posted at 3:51 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    palmerboy Posts: 40

    Here is the irony, this dairy exists due to government subsidies in the form of low interest loans & the purchase of equipment from mat maid at rock bottom prices. The dairymen ran the past management out when it was profitable because they were greedy and wanted more. Now they have an insider in the government that is main lining them money (grants & loans) while they are lining their pockets we smell sour milk.The irony is that the other hand of government is not in on their backdoor deals and they cry foul when they are asked to follow the rules like the rest of us. Now they are crying the blues in public but laughing all the way to the bank in private. When will we learn that these guys and gals are just milking the system.

  • Lighthouse posted at 1:19 pm on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    Lighthouse Posts: 148

    To MtMike
    What is really sad is that we have been invited to other states. Nobody here seemed to care not the politicians, media, or the people that we shut down so we will be moving eventually. We don’t lose the community is what will lose, but if they don’t want something for free then you can’t even give it away.

  • reality posted at 10:43 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    reality Posts: 399

    One day it will dawn on people that a dairy in a tiny market doesn't work out economically. It didn't work in Anchorage where they had a sewer hook up. Just because something is organic doesn't mean you can dump it without causing problems. Everything in my septic tank is organic too. This is just plain irrespondsible.

  • perennialgma posted at 8:37 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    perennialgma Posts: 422

    Also, what about the health of the children living in those buildings? Do they matter? How many children living with this 'problem?" I could care less if they are dumping the milk at Church Road.

  • perennialgma posted at 8:33 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    perennialgma Posts: 422

    I am dreadfully annoyed that those apartment buildings were built behind the creamery. My young friend lives in this 'housing project'. They have been using bottled water and having septic problems for a long time. Who allowed all these septic systems and buildings to be built on Wasilla Creek? Is it polluting our stream? Isn't the DEC in charge of that?

  • MtMike posted at 8:01 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    MtMike Posts: 475


    I could not agree more! I have my business up for sale - the apathetic and corrupt can have this!

  • Lighthouse posted at 6:08 am on Sun, Aug 19, 2012.

    Lighthouse Posts: 148

    Don’t ask Ron Arvin for help he’ll find a way to make what the borough and state “legal” irrelevant of the right or wrong and Wes Keller will tell you essentially that he doesn’t care then ignore you, as will the governor. For some reason this borough/state is anti-business unless they can find a way to suck as much money out of the business as they can until they run them out of business. Been there done that we had a similar problem and are now looking for a new state to do business in. Even not for profits are not safe in this borough/state Good luck

  • MtMike posted at 11:05 pm on Sat, Aug 18, 2012.

    MtMike Posts: 475

    Where is the FEDRAL EPA, when needed?

    Government, whether Federal, State, or Borough, can "legislate" "all" out of business for the sake of "safety" for the masses.

    Welcome to America and why companies leave!


2015 Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show

Tundra cartoonist Chad Carpenter signs autographs and visits with fans at the 2015 Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show. Written by brothers Chad and Darin Carpenter, ‘Moose the Movie’ was filmed in the Mat-Su Borough last summer and begins a two-week run April 24 at The Valley Cinema, 3331 East Old Matanuska Road, Wasilla.

The annual Outdoorsman Show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., today at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, 1001 S. Mack Dr., in Wasilla.

6:55 pm | See more