County denies lagoon expansion

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Griess Truck Wash seeking permission to double its size

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County commissioners denied a request from Griess Truck Wash Monday to expand a lagoon system used to handle wastewater from the I-80 facility’s cattle washout bays.

After reviewing a recommendation from the Hamilton County Joint Planning Commission, board members opened the floor Want loc for public comment. Those in attendance included owners Matt and David Griess, as well as Richard Schaffert, a neighboring landowner. All three gentlemen were present to speak in favor of the proposed text amendment change. “I am in favor of it,” Matt

“I am in favor of it,” Matt Griess began. “Me and my brother David, we own the truck wash there and we own the lagoon. The reason we want to expand the lagoon is so that we have more holding capacity. When you talk about being in compliance, if you have more holding capacity, that is going to help you be in compliance.

“One information of the ways we fell out o of compliance was a year ago, or two years ago, when we had the flood, the lagoon was too full so we had to pump when it was wet because of all the rainwater,” he continued. “If we would have had more holding capacity at that time we never would have had to pump. The pivot got stuck -- there was some runoff. And also, when you look at benefitting the farmers and the agriculture around here, when they want to irrigate it’s in July, so (if) they can pump for 14 days in July it benefits the farmer, which I think is important in Hamilton County.”

This is opposed to the situation at the lagoon currently, the Web? -- Go which takes about three to four days of pumping before it is empty and often has to be emptied in the winter, spring and fall.

“I think some of the confusion on this is it’s not that we’re doing more washing, it is not that there is going to be more water in the lagoon,” he said. “It’s just going to be less pumping. It’s a bigger holding area, so we have to pump just one time a year as opposed to 10 times a year.”

Commissioner Becky Richter questioned if it was the pumping of the water that created the odor. Griess noted that while there is an odor to the lagoon, o auroranewsre it is worse when it is being pumped.

“There is always going to be odor there,” he voiced. “We’re treating it right now. We’re trying some different chemicals to help take care of the odor. It’s hard for me because I’ve always grown up on a farm and in agriculture, so it doesn’t really bother me and I don’t notice it that much, but I think when I’m down there it seems like the odor is less.”

Griess repeated that a pump once a year, versus multiple times, would reduce the times the smell was worsened.

Following a question from Commissioner John Thomas, Griess notified commissioners that currently the facility is a sixmillion gallon lagoon.

“And I think we’re looking to get it to, in all that, to 14 million gallons of holding capacity,” Griess said. “And we have engineered plans, it’s all engineered, it’s all approved by the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality). We have that information we can provide you guys with.” The information was not

The information was not readily available at the meeting, though commissioners later requested it be brought in to add to the record.

Commissioner Thomas posed another question, asking if those issues with compliance brought up in the planning commission’s earlier meetings had been corrected.

“When we fell out of compliance we met with DEQ,” Griess said. “The times we have fallen out of compliance is when we are pumping in the winter, or like during that flood, when the pivot would get stuck. It’s just not an ideal time to be pumping. So the compliance issues we’ve had have been off season pumping, which that is what we’re trying to get away from.”

The lagoon, which is 14 feet deep, reaches a non-compliant level at 12-1/2 feet, Griess reported. With more holding capacity, he added, that level wouldn’t have been reached until irrigation season. “So more holding capacity,

“So more holding capacity, would that equal more odor or less odor?” Thomas posed.

“I don’t think it will make a difference of more odor or less odor,” Griess answered, after restating his points about one pump a year being less odorous than multiple pumps throughout the year. “So the purpose of expanding

“So the purpose of expanding the lagoon is so that you don’t have to pump as often?” Thomas furthered. Griess confirmed, noting that

Griess confirmed, noting that he, David and Schaffert met with the NDEQ and the expansion of the lagoon -- causing less pumping need -- was a way the organization had recommended to help with the truck wash’s compliance issues of the wastewater being at or higher than 12-1/2 feet and pumping during the off-season. “When I met with the DEQ

“When I met with the DEQ they said 95 percent of lagoons in Nebraska were out of compliance,” Griess continued.

Chairman Nelson asked how many times the lagoon has had to be pumped during off season times recently.

“Off the top of my head -- usually at Thanksgiving we’ll try to empty it down as much as we can,” Griess responded. “But then, I would say after December we’re always looking for those days in there where it is warming enough (to pump).”

The hold capacity is approximately three-months worth.

“Usually when you hit spring you’re worried about a wet field,” David Griess voiced. “So in December when you get a warm day, you’re trying to just pump a day or two there to get it down a little more because you just don’t know what the spring is going to be.”

“Another thing is the lagoon is a clay-bottom lagoon,” Matt Griess added. “We’re technically only allowed to pump it down to two feet to stay in compliance, because where the DEQ claims is that the water has to be there to hold that clay so it doesn’t dry up, to hold that liner there.” They also run into the issue of

They also run into the issue of a warm winter day having wet ground, he added, which is also not ideal and can cause problems with pivots getting stuck.

“It has worked, it has just been really tough for us to get by,” he said.

Commission Richter questioned how this text amendment would affect other lagoons in the county -- such as that of another village. Hamilton County Administra

Hamilton County Administrative Manager Scott Stuhr noted that if that lagoon was outside the village’s zoning district (and therefore in the county’s) then it would -- otherwise the county would have no say.

“I believe we were told at the time when we were looking at the comprehensive plan that this was a fairly standard provision,” Nelson added.

“Have you had any discussions with any of the neighbors?” he asked Matt Griess. “Because the public has been pretty vocal about the odor in particular. And I realize you’ve addressed the issue of multiple pumpings throughout the year, which of course would add to that.” Griess reported that he had

Griess reported that he had talked to the neighbors a couple of times.

“Well I’ve caught them trespassing a couple of times so we’ve had discussions about that,” he said. “But I’ve never actually sat down and talked to them about expanding the lagoon. I felt like when we had our first meeting with those guys we kind of laid out what we were going to do and how we were trying to help. It’s not really about compliance to them. I think they want us gone. Which I mean, it is what it is. For them I don’t think they want us to have (another) lagoon because they want us to stay out of compliance. That is my belief.”

If it was really about compliance, panded lagoon he added, the expanded lagoon would fix that.

“And did I understand correctly that you said this is not a business growth?” Richter asked.

“This is not a business growth,” Griess responded. “We’re not expanding the truck wash. We’re not putting any more bays on there. So it would be the same amount of water, it’s just we’re pumping less.” Their motivation is not

Their motivation is not business growth, he confirmed, adding that he couldn’t predict if they’d get busier.

Conversation during the public hearing continued, following the same themes of the perceived benefits of an expanded lagoon, as well as an idea of the structure of the updated lagoon. More questions were posed by commissioners before the hearing was closed.

“As you can imagine it’s a pretty hot issue,” Nelson said.

A motion was made to follow the planning commission’s recommendation to deny the text amendment. The motion was seconded and approved by a 4-1 vote, with Thomas voting no. Nelson opened the public

Nelson opened the public hearing and asked Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeremy Brandt to read the recommendation of the Planning Commission onto record.

“On Feb. 24, 2020, Griess Family Holdings, LLC., submitted an application to the county to amend the Hamilton County Zoning Regulations pertaining to Section 8.27, Wastewater Disposal Systems for Miscellaneous,” Brandt stated.

“The (following) proposed change had been suggested to the planning commission: Section 8.27.02 minimum requirements, add line five -- ‘If a wastewater handling facility was in existence before Resolution No. 1074 (Sept. 9, 2019) was in effect, the facility is able to expand its holding capacity as long as the expansion is located a minimum of 1,800 feet from any residential uses.’” The planning commission held a public hearing on the amendment April 21 via Zoom, he added. At that hearing there were two individuals present in favor of the change and “numerous” against any change.

The issue was tabled until May 19, when the motion to approve failed on a 3-5 vote. Another motion was made at this same meeting, to deny the proposed amendment. It was made, seconded and passed with a 5-3 vote (with the same four members still absent).

This approved motion meant that it was the planning commission’s recommendation to deny this addition of line five, which would effectively change the setback distance from a “residential use” area from 2,640 feet to 1,800 feet -- for those wastewater facilities in existence before Sept. 9, 2019.

‘I felt like when we had our first meeting with those guys (neighbors) we kind of laid out what we were going to do and how we were trying to help. It’s not really about compliance to them. I think they want us gone.’ Matt Griess, Griess Truck Wash

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