PEABODY — A spokesperson for Texas-based Darling Ingredients, Inc., which operates the Rousselot Peabody, Inc., gelatin manufacturing plant on Washington Street, said the company denies allegations in a class action lawsuit filed in Superior Court by Peabody residents who claim "noxious odors" invaded their properties last summer.
"Rousselot values its relationship with the Peabody community, strives to be a good neighbor, and takes seriously its regulatory responsibilities," said Melissa Gaither, vice president, global communications and sustainability for Darling Ingredients, in an email.
"To ensure that it complies with its regulatory permits and mission to be a good environmental steward, Rousselot works with state and local regulator bodies including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the city of Peabody," she said. "Over the past five years, Rousselot has also made numerous modifications to its Peabody facilities, including projects specific to air emission quality."
"While Rousselot does not discuss the details of litigation matters," she said, "it is important to understand that Rousselot denies the allegations in the complaint filed in Essex County and will take all necessary measures to defend itself and protect its reputation in the community."
The class action complaint was filed around the New Year in Essex Superior Court against the plant's owners by Lynn Street residents Michael Baranofsky and Kimberley Gale, and James Street resident Lawrence Essember, on their behalf and others like them, court documents state.
In filing the suit, the plaintiffs say their counsel spoke with more than 55 others who live near the plant at 227 Washington St. about the foul odors, which have been an ongoing issue for years in the neighborhood. They say the company has failed to address the problem in any lasting way.
The plaintiffs say the odors have interfered with their ability to "enjoy their homes and property," while reducing property values. The lawsuit defines the class as "owner/occupants and renters" within a mile of the plant, estimating more than 7,000 households are within the "class area."
During a heat wave last summer, about 35 to 40 residents who live in the vicinity of the plant complained to the Board of Health of an odor that smelled like "rotten flesh." The board fined the plant $3,000 — $1,000 per day between July 23-25 for "excessive odors."
In the summer, Gaither, said "an accumulated level of solids in the system" led to the odors. Officials pointed to problems with an 80-foot clarifier tank used in wastewater treatment.
At the time, Gaither said the company was aware of the complaints and it was "taking the appropriate action to address the matter." She said the facility has made investments in various odor abatement projects.
Rousselot acquired the plant in December 2011, which had operated for many years as Eastman Gelatine. The plant has been in operation for about 137 years and employs about 100 people. It's located adjacent to the middle school, police station and numerous homes to the north and south.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.