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Answer Man: Another theory for that cow odor

In my truly wonderful column Wednesday , I took a deep breath and speculated on the origin of the livestock odor that sometimes drifts over downtown Rochester. That column drew some equally marvelous responses from readers.

Here's one:

"I was a little amused by your answer to the question about 'cow smell' in today's column. It is not the cow that smells — it is the by-products of its digestion that causes the odor — just like most creatures — including you and me. Just hope we don't hear about 'Answer Man smells'! — Daily reader in Dodge Center

Me, too! That really would be embarrassing. And yes, I agree, it's the digestive by-products, but I've spent enough time around cattle to know they don't exactly smell fresh as a daisy in between producing those by-products.

In any case, point taken. Now, there's this:


Hi, Answer Man. In response to the July 17th question about the smell of cows in downtown Rochester, that smell might be generated by Seneca Foods. Their waste water is transported and sprayed on large open fields in the area between Third Avenue Southeast and Fleet Farm.

That is all for now. — Reader in Southeast Rochester

Another reader, Larry Brown, who addressed me as the "Sage of Semantics" — very nice — said the same thing, and in fact if I took the time to dig deep into my archives, I think I've also suggested that in the past. But I haven't been in the Walmart South or Fleet Farm area when that spraying has occurred, so I can't confirm this.

If any Seneca executives are reading this: Would you please call me the next time you're spraying? I'll keep a discreet distance — I don't want that reader in Dodge Center to think I smell like a cow.

You might be interested to know, purely coincidentally, that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is now reviewing Seneca's request to renew its permit for five years, and there are fascinating details in the paperwork. I'll link to it online , but here are some tidbits:

"Seneca Foods-Rochester processes or repacks a variety of fresh vegetables including peas, sweet corn, carrots, potatoes and mukimame beans and some already-cleaned and prepped beans," the form says.

What are mukimame beans? I had to look it up: They're shelled edemames, soybeans harvested before they dry out and harden.

"The facility discharges can cooling water during the processing season to the South Branch of the Zumbro River via storm sewer," the document says, then lists nearly 20 chemical additives that are also discharged.


"The facility operates its own wastewater treatment and disposal system for vegetable process and cleanup waste," it says.

The company has five spray sites, totaling 511 acres, for "land application of process wastewater." They're monitored by 19 groundwater monitoring wells. "Groundwater samples are collected three times a year."

The Seneca plant generates about 65,000 tons of silage annually, and it's sent to farms for feed or land application.

I hope you found this as fascinating as I did. In any case, the public comment period for the permit is now open through July 31. If you want to file a comment or get more information, call 651-757-2380.

OK, here's one more bon mot for today, and then you're on your own for the weekend:

Dear Answer Man, I've seen posters at Kwik Trip for a program called Cell Phones for Soldiers. You can donate old cellphones that will then be fixed up and given to military personnel so they can call home. I wonder if that's a good idea and if it's a good organization.

It's a legit nonprofit organization, if that's what you mean, but the Kwik Trip program only was for the month of June, at least in the Rochester area. They probably won't appreciate it if you drop off your "powered-off, gently used cellphone(s)" at this point. And for the record, they don't fix up the phones and give them to military personnel — they sell them and use the money to buy pre-paid calling cards.

The charity watchdog Charity Navigator gives the organization a good financial rating but is less impressed by its "accountability and transparency." I'll link to their report online , as well as the Cell Phones for Soldiers website, or you can call toll-free 866-716-2220.


I could keep writing, but I think it's time for you to read the rest of the paper.

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