Hemp processor explains business, council discusses potential changes
Typically, there are few to none that respond during the public comment portion at the Molalla City Council meetings. But two people stood up to give public comments on Oct. 23. Both spoke about the hemp processing plant, which lately has created many comments from local residents, particularly about the odor emanating from it.
Jacob Crabtree, the chief executive and co-founder of Columbia Hemp Trading Company told council members and the public that the plant on Industrial Way started processing hemp in early September. This year, the second for the company, it is receiving hemp from some 2,000 farmers, up from 600 last year.
"We are striving to improve," Crabtree said. Currently, the facility is drying the hemp in order to process it to pull out the CBD oil. The drying will continue through the second week of November and then the smell will be gone, he added.
Later in the meeting, Planning Director Alice Cannon suggested potential new regulations, including material loading and processing must be fully enclosed. Currently, Crabtree said that when farmers leave their harvested hemp it is enclosed and won't be opened until drying begins.
Also, Cannon suggested that the plant require an engineered air filtration and ventilation system that is designed to filter air and offensive odors. This must also be stamped by a licensed Oregon mechanical engineer. She also would like to see the staff and council review appropriate locations in Molalla.
Once the processing is finished, the plant staff will begin again to work on eliminating the smell people are complaining about, he said.
"I'm for improvement. After we complete the drying that typically goes on from late August through the first half of November, we're planning to refine the labs and trying to regulate the smell. We're working as fast as we can," Crabtree said.
The company has eight engineers on staff working on the odor and putting out proposals to eliminate both noise and smell before the plant begins processing again next August. Crabtree wants to get rid of the smell as much as the city does, he said.
Doris Schnell, who lives on Toliver Road, spoke next with concern about the noise that she called "deafening, and the smell too."
She said she's more concerned for the children in the elementary school near the hemp processing plant, worried about their hearing.
"It starts at 8 a.m. and sometimes goes all day; it's really loud," she said. "It happens at certain times of the day and is not all the time."
However, one person who lives in the same area hasn't noticed the noise or the smell, she told the Pioneer. Additionally, hemp is different from marijuana. While there may be a smell, it's not hallucinatory because the hemp plant has no THC and thus cannot make people high.
Others at the meeting noted there are other production companies in the area that could be creating the loud noise Schnell mentioned. There's a wood dryer across the street from the hemp plant as well as a cabinet maker that could be causing the noise, said a couple of the council members.
"As for the noise factor, we're using the site as intended and we've reduced the noise considerably," Crabtree said.
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