Oil recycling is an emotional subject for residents who live along a stretch of the Carson Highway about 14 miles west of Fallon not far from the Lahontan Reservoir.
Those residents had a chance to air their views and hear a presentation from Bango Oil officials Tuesday night during a two-hour meeting at the Churchill County Administration Building Commissioner Chambers. Six representatives from Omega Holdings, which purchased the oil re-refining facility in August 2010, were on hand to provide an update on its operations before about three dozen people that included residents and county officials. County Manager Eleanor Lockwood indicated in her opening remarks this is expected to be the first of many informational meetings.
“This meeting is to inform you and to get some of your questions answered,” Lockwood told the audience.
Discussion included the facility’s conversion to natural gas in addition to other construction and expansion.
“We are committed to running this plant safely and in compliance,” Omega Holdings Chief Operating Officer Dave Peel said. “We’re not here to duck the fact that there have been issues. We’re here to explain what we’re doing to fix the issues. We want to have an open dialogue with the community, and at the end of the day, we want to be a good neighbor.”
An open house has been scheduled for June 29, at which time Omega Holdings officials will offer guided tours of the newly expanded facility.
Local resident Rich Wideman explained the primary reason for concerns is odors which residents of the neighborhood say have been a source of ill will since the facility opened in 2007.
“I commend you for at least admitting there are odors; this is one of the first time we’ve ever heard (anyone admit) that,” Wideman told the Omega Holdings officials. “I think a lot of us felt the natural gas conversion was going to fix a lot of those issues, and we were told that would be a good possibility by the county as well as the company.”
The facility completed its conversion earlier this year from liquid fuel burners to natural gas burners, which burn cleaner, according to Paul Duff, director of operations. He added that completion of stack scrubber technology, due to be completed in June, is expected to further reduce stack emissions.
“Odors is probably the No. 1 reason everyone is here tonight. We want to show we are taking steps and making changes. In some cases we are going above and beyond what NDEP (Nevada Department of Environmental Protection) is requiring. We would like to go on improving the environment ... we are an environmental company.”
Esther Moore looked forward to moving into what she thought would be her retirement home, which she expected would be ideally located in an area where she had enjoyed horseback riding since 1982. She says a lot has changed in the last six years.
“I want to talk about health issues,” Moore said, adding she had called reports in to the Planning Department earlier in the day. “I had to put down two horses with respiratory problems. Donna Germain took a ride one day with our horses, and it was so bad out there I said, ‘I’m not riding my horses out here ever again.’ We could never enjoy riding our horses like we used to for years. That was my life; and now my life is gone.”
Jeffrey Bard, Director, Environmental Health & Safety for Omega Holdings observed the company faces tight state regulations.
“There are some very stringent conditions in our air permit that the state has issued,” Bard said. “They do follow up on the air complaints. We follow up on those and look at them and try to determine what is going on at the plant that may be causing them.”
Don Mello, who lives about two miles from the facility on the Carson River, also asked whether Churchill County residents living near Bango Oil can ever expect to see their quality of life return.
“Odor is probably the most difficult question to answer and I can’t stand up here and say there will never be odors again,” Duff replied. “If there was a magic wand to wave, I would. What we’re trying to do is demonstrate that we are committed to working toward that resolution. We’re using best practices, we’re adding new technology, we are trying to do things we believe should reduce the odors.”
Lockwood was encouraged by the outcome of the meeting.
“I think we have a very experienced group with Omega Holdings,” she said. “I am continuing to work with the NDEP to try and get a meeting set up with them so we can have an understanding from them as to what aspects they look at, what do they regulate, and have some of our other questions and the residents’ questions answered.”