Champion tackles smell problem
Tests suggest 95 per cent less odour
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Tuesday, Sep 17, 2013 04:16 pm
A Morinville dog food producer got a rare round of applause last week after its president told town council that the manufacturer had all but eliminated the smell from its smokestacks.
Champion Petfoods president Frank Burdzy briefed town council Sept. 10 on the results of its multimillion-dollar efforts to keep smells from its pet food plant out of the town’s air.
“We had to take responsibility for something that was not a pleasant situation,” Burdzy said.
The company brought in experts from around the world and did millions of dollars in upgrades to its plant to keep smelly particles out of the air. Last May, it did the first scientific study of the results.
The results suggested that the plant had cut its smell intensity by about 94 per cent at homes most impacted by the plant, Burdzy said, and smell frequency at those homes by 84 per cent.
“We went from 96 odour units beyond the industrial zone to five,” he said, referring to the peak smell level measured. The change represents a drop of about 95 per cent.
Odour units are a standardized measure of smell. A smell of one odour unit is benign (undetectable half the time), while one of 50 units is intense (requiring 50 tanks of air to disperse).
“We’ve been able to attract the proper technology and the proper expertise to really attack this issue,” Burdzy said.
The company did this by redesigning its plant’s interior to improve airflow, lowering temperatures in its now-bigger ovens, and adding a 35-metre tall smokestack to its roof, Burdzy said. Staff also cranked up their sanitation efforts.
Burdzy said that he wasn’t sure how much all these steps had cost. He has previously pegged the bill at about $5 million.
The reductions were due to a combination of measures, he continued, rather than any one in particular. Two steps that were ineffective were installing a plasma injector and a Venturi scrubber in the plant, both of which were removed (or cancelled, in the scrubber’s case) as they had little effect on smell particles.
Champion also reached out to the community, Burdzy said in an interview.
“The first resident that came up to me and said they’d been here eight years and didn’t know we existed? It just bothered me,” he said.
The company wasn’t talking enough with local residents, meaning it was getting known for its smell rather than its product, he said.
The company held an open house last summer to explain how the plant works, and retargeted its donations into bigger, more public projects (such as its recent sponsorship of the Morinville Youth Basketball Association). It also now schedules its cooking times to avoid major town events.
Burdzy said Champion will keep working to reduce its smells.
“The most important thing is regular maintenance and sanitation,” he said.
The company also hopes to get more consistent moisture levels in its ingredients to allow for even lower cooking temperatures.
The town may still smell odours from the plant under certain weather conditions, Burdzy said, and he encouraged residents to call the plant when this happens.
One in six people who live and work in Morinville work for Champion, Burdzy told council.
“We need this (town) to be a great place to live because we need more people working here.”
Councillors and audience members applauded Burdzy after his presentation – a big shift, as he was often met with outright hostility during past appearances.
Coun. Nicole Boutestein thanked Burdzy for his company’s efforts, saying that they had made a noticeable difference in the town’s smell issues.
“You didn’t just address them, you fixed them,” she said.
Champion will hold a second open house this Oct. 4.