The Western Sugar Cooperative sugar factory in Lovell remained idle this week as employees worked to sanitize equipment in response to an order by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration order that shut the factory down on Sunday, Jan. 12, in the wake of the accident on Jan. 4 that claimed the life of a factory worker.
Western Sugar Cooperative spokesman Kent Wimmer said both FDA and OSHA personnel are on site at the plant, with the FDA having the final say as to when the factory may resume operations.
“We continue to work with the authorities on site to get the factory sanitized,” Wimmer said. “We’re working diligently and want to get the factory up as soon as possible. We’re making progress.
“It’s quite the process. We’re making sure we do it as the authorities have directed us to do.”
In a press release issued last week, Wimmer said the company had “isolated” sugar produced at the factory between Jan. 4 and the Jan. 12 shutdown, and Wimmer confirmed Wednesday morning that the company has “segretated” sugar in three of the four factory silos.
“It’s part of the process, making sure we handle things properly per their (FDA’s) instructions,” Wimmer said.
Wimmer said the FDA is monitoring and directing the sanitizing of the “beet end” of the factory – the beet-handling system where the accident occurred, noting, “We want to make sure we’re doing it to their specifications.”
Wimmer said there are still about 30 days of sugar beets in pile ready to be processed.
“We’re very anxious to get the factory going again,” he said, adding that the cooperative wants to resume operations as soon as possible to “finish the process.”
In last week’s news release, Wimmer stated that the cooperative had recalled agricultural byproducts from the factory that were intended for use as livestock feed.
According to sources, a meeting was held Tuesday night with farmers to discuss the byproducts situation and the effect on local cattle producers, but Wimmer said he had no information on the meeting as of Wednesday morning.
Anfesa Marie “Ky” Galaktionoff, 28, of Lovell and Deaver was killed Jan. 4 after falling into a piece of industrial equipment. After an intensive search that weekend, the factory resumed operations until being shut down by order of the FDA the following weekend, with the final beets being sliced in the early morning hours of Jan. 12.
by David Peck