Pet food plant cuts smell

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Champion tweaks lead to 15 per cent reduction, president

The air is a little bit fresher around Morinville this month thanks to tweaks at the local pet food plant, says its owner — so much so that the plant might not need some high-tech scrubbers after all.

Champion Petfoods put out a news release on Dec. 22 on its ongoing efforts to suppress the stink raised by its plant in Morinville. Local residents have made many complaints about greasy, foul odours wafting from the plant, and councillors are pressing the plant’s owners to get rid of the smell.

They’re still working on it, says company president Frank Burdzy, but they’re already seeing some results. Air quality tests done in October suggest that the plant’s smell was now hovering at about 50 odour units per cubic metre, or about 15 to 20 per cent less intense than it was in April.

Residents might not notice the difference, Burdzy says, but this shows that they’re making progress. “We’ve definitely been able to have success at bringing that number down.”

Progress

Odour units are standardized measures of smell, says David Spink, an air quality consultant in St. Albert who specializes in industrial odours. A smell of one unit is considered benign, as it is undetectable to half of the population and barely noticeable to the rest.

“Fifty odour units would be pretty intense,” he says — if you had a tank of 50 odour-unit stink, you’d need 50 tanks of fresh air to get rid of it.

Champion’s smell problems started around 2007 after it added more meat to its product, according to Burdzy. Like throwing more steaks on the fire, that meant more smell.

The $500,000 plasma injection system the plant installed last year was supposed to fix this problem, but didn’t. That led to a new plan to add Venturi scrubbers that would spin and soak the smell out of the air — scrubbers that were delayed to spring 2012 after a consultant found additional changes to the plant were needed. Town council yanked a $60,000 tax break from Champion in response to these delays.

Champion has since cranked down the heat in its dryers and improved airflow in the plant, Burdzy says. Both moves have reduced the stink. They have also finalized designs for the new stacks, which should be considerably taller than the current ones.

Once the new stacks go in this spring, Burdzy says, they’ll test the air again to see if they actually need to install the Venturi scrubbers.

“It looks like the stack height and the temperature controls are going to be sufficient to address the issue,” he says, but he’s working on the assumption that they’ll need the scrubbers. “I’m pushing my people to prove they’re not required.”

The plant now hopes to get its smell down to five or less odour units per cubic meter, Burdzy says, which is in line with European standards. “There’s going to be some sense of odour from time to time, but the key thing is we want to remove the offensive nature of it.”

This 15-per-cent drop is good news for the town, says Coun. Paul Krauskopf, especially since the plant still had more smell measures in the pipe.

“I would also add that I have not noticed the odour as often or lasting as long as in the past,” he says, which he assumes is due to the smell controls. Champion is taking a serious and comprehensive approach to this problem, he says, and he hopes the plant will meet its smell target.

Questions should go to Champion’s smell hotline at 1-855-784-0340.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.