LARNED — Monday night, the Larned City Council agenda included anticipated public comments from two individuals, Jason Jacobs and John Harmon, on unrelated subjects of concern. Harmon was expected to speak about the Scout House at Schnack Park, while Jacobs wished to express concern about an odor he experienced while industrial hemp was being processed at a facility in the city. Neither attended the meeting. However, Carlton and Shari Bert, shareholders of Bert and Wetta Sales, Inc., the company operating the plant, were at the meeting to respond to the complaint.
This prompted City Manager Brad Eilts to share what he knew of the complaint in Jacob’s stead.
“We received a complaint about an odor, and it was industrial hemp processing. A guy called and said the smell made him sick,” Eilts said. The man wanted to discuss the matter with the city council. Eilts explained to him that the operation is regulated by the state, but that he was certainly invited to come speak to the city council about anything bothering him. “He called today and left a message saying he was not going to be here this evening because he was still doing some research.”
It was determined the man lives near the plant.
Mayor William Nusser reached out to the Berts to have them educate the council about the process, which is different from other processing the company does there.
Carlton Bert said the company applied for a permit to process industrial hemp last summer. They ran a small test with 50,000 lbs of hemp, and ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. one day. The product tested was within the .03 percent THC threshold required. Subsequent tests and processing of fresh product ran for longer periods, once for almost a week.
“I don’t think anybody knew we were running it,” he said.
The most recent run was not fresh, and Bert admitted it did smell different, and that fact may have been part of the issue, but it was still within approved thresholds.
Council members weren’t sure what if anything they could do provided they were operating within established thresholds and guidelines.
“I mean, what are you going to do ? The feedyards have the same issue, “Councilman Jason Murray said.
Nusser said he looked into the issue and found city councils and school boards all around the country have been dealing with similar complaints and issues about the different smell. The EPA, he said, has determined the smell is not toxic, and therefore it’s simply something people will need to get used to moving forward as the industry grows.
“Because it’s a new industry it’s new to people,” he said. “There’s just processes that come with industrialization of anything.”
Shari Bert detailed the regulations imposed on the industry and steps the company has taken to comply.
According to a company profile at Bllomberg.com, Bert and Wetta Sales, Inc. produces animal feed. The Company provides feeds, alfalfa, cereal grass, and ingredients for animals and fowls. Recently, they also began processing industrial hemp.
‘Everything we produce is products that can be eaten, so it’s not that we’re putting out anything that’s not perfectly fine.” Carton Bert said.
Murray asked about filtration and particulates. Bert and Wetta is operating with a permit by rule, and are allowed a certain amount of particulate matter, and are well below those levels, Bert said.
Bert and Wetta Sales, Inc., was picked by the Larned Area Chamber of Commerce as the 2019 Best Large Business of the Year in October.