AYER — In an unscheduled appointment, selectmen met with top level representatives of Vitasoy USA to discuss the offensive odors that have been issuing from their local plant for over a decade.
The two officials, Walter Wriglian, president and CEO of Vitasoy USA, and Frank Si, group senior director of operations, had missed a public hearing on the odor problem held by the Board of Health the day before. That meeting was packed with residents angry and frustrated at the lack of response to their complaints by the company.
According to Wriglian, Vitasoy USA manufactures tofu with soy milk a key ingredient.
The latest odors that drove residents indoors, explained company officials, were due to the dumping of 2,500 gallons of soy by-product into the plant’s disposal system.
In response, Vitasoy production manager Niel Middleton told BOH members that everything was being done to mitigate the problem.
Arriving from Hong Kong where the company’s corporate headquarters are located, Si dropped into the selectmen’s meeting to assure members that his company is doing all it can to eliminate the odors.
“If I was a neighbor living there, I’d be mad, too,” said Si. “We understand the feelings of our neighbors.”
However, Si went on to say that it would take time to identify and correct the problems plaguing the plant but that a comprehensive action plan to deal with them is being prepared. Progress will be reported at a future meeting of the BOH.
“We’re not taking this matter lightly,” said Wriglian. “But it remains a work in progress.”
As if to underscore the urgency of the situation, one resident at the selectmen’s July 14 meeting reported that offensive smells had once again issued from the plant earlier that same day.
In the meantime, town administrator Robert Pontbriand, suggested that Vitasoy provide a document with periodic updates and post it in a public place so that residents can stay informed on the situation.
“I think that’s a good idea,” agreed Si.
Also at their meeting of July 14, selectmen decided to send back to the Planning Board a request for hiring a consultant for the proposed construction of a truck stop gas station by Global Oil off Littleton Road.
Although board members were not opposed to the request, it was decided that more details were needed before they could give their acquiescence.
The board’s caution was underscored by resident Matthew Kane who noted that a town bylaw specifically prohibits any business whose operations would interfere in the quality of life of nearby neighborhoods.
It was Kane’s contention that a 24-hour truck stop would present odors, noise and light pollution far in excess of what residents need to put up with.
The selectmen decided to ask the Planning Board to retake its previous vote and provide a cost estimate and more details about Global Oil’s intentions for the business.
The BOS will take up the question of hiring a consultant again at its meeting of Aug. 11.