By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Residents and visitors could smell nothing but the summer breeze this August if Champion Petfoods is able to stay on track with its current odour reduction strategy. Morinville councillors and administration were sent an update Friday of Champion’s efforts to mitigate the smell coming from its plant.
The three-page document outlines what the company has done since Deputy Mayor Paul Krauskopf issued the company some harsh words last October when he was chairing a council meeting in the Mayor’s absence, words that asked Champion to come back to council in January with some concrete plans.
Champion activated a $500,000 plasma-injector system in both its plants in June of 2010. Although the equipment worked well for the first few weeks, system performance continued to be a problem through the summer, requiring repeated tweaking and resetting. The situation worsened in October, prompting Champion to bring in the specialist who designed and installed the system. Although new reactors were installed and a number of air leaks were fixed in the plant’s stacks, the real problem was the presence of oil vapours passing through the dust filters and entering the plasma reactors.
The fat-based vapour molecules, a by-product of the company’s fresh meat ingredients, were getting trapped in the plasma injectors and blocking proper airflow. The company will be installing Venturi scrubbers that will separate the oil molecule from the water molecule prior to the plasma-injector system.
Champion President Frank Burdzy said the company is on track with the outline they presented to council this January to install the scrubbers. “We had said we would get our pilot testing done in mid-April and we did conclude that last week, “ Burdzy said, adding the company is currently waiting on the results which will give the company a determination of the size and scope of the Venturi scrubbers that will be needed to solve the odour emission problem. “The challenge is actually scoping it and scaling it properly for this particular need.”
Burdzy said it will be roughly two weeks before the engineers can come back with the data needed to go forward with the final design. “That’s still on track. We said by the end of April we’d have a final design and we’d be commissioning the construction of the units,” he said.
The pilot testing has concluded that removing the fat molecules with the extra Venturi scrubber would alleviate the problem. “Definitely we saw some good results there, so the fat molecules were being extracted by adding the Venturi on to the front end of that,” he said, adding the removal allowed the plasma-injector system to do its job. “When they did the scaled-down pilot test they tried three or four different combinations and permutations, and it seemed like the path we’re heading down is the one that’s going to be the most effective.”
That path will involve taking the existing airflow and running it through the scrubber, then through the plasma-injector system, and finally out the vent stacks. “When we’re venting it, we’re going to be increasing the fan speed as well so that we have better movement of the air and don’t suffer from the condensation that we were suffering from previously,” Burdzy said, adding that in the past condensation led to a build-up that did not allow the molecules to properly dissipate. “With increasing the fan speed we’ll be able to get the air movement where it won’t get caught up anywhere. The steam won’t get caught up in the stack and vents and come back down again.”
Additionally, the company is looking to enhance its airflow throughout the plant, ensuring positive and negative air pressure is where it should be. Burdzy said the enhancements will allow the plant greater production without the risk of causing the odour to return.
Installation of the Venturi scrubber system is expected to be completed by August.
Burdzy is aware that many Morinville residents lost confidence when the plasma-injector system failed to achieve hoped for results, but he feels communications with residents is the key to restoring that confidence in the future.
“Historically, the organization haven’t communicated much about where we’re at with our process other than some of the council meetings that we’ve had,” he said, adding setting up a booth at last weekend’s trade show in Morinville was a large step in the company’s communications plan. “We have no desire in hiding from the situation. We need to keep producing information that provides the facts because I talked to a number of people … that it was pretty clear either made their own conclusions about what the problems were or got some information from somebody else who really wasn’t well equipped to provide them with that information. I’ve had all kinds of scary stories and issues [about] what we’re producing in our plant and what’s causing the problem.”
Burdzy said whenever he or any representatives have an opportunity to explain the situation to people; most are satisfied Champion is taking proper steps to mitigate the odour issue. The company president said some members of town administration toured the plant last week to see the progress being made. Burdzy said the company is still planning on having an open house for residents to see for themselves.
Deputy Mayor Paul Krauskopf, who was unimpressed with Champion’s presentation last October, is confident the company is now on track to reduce the odour problem in Morinville.
“I’m confident that they have found a workable solution that’s going to work,” Krauskopf said. “My understanding is – if by chance this doesn’t work – there is a Plan B which they can add to this system they have to make it even better yet. I’m quite confident come July they will be in a good position and everything is going to smell just fine. The roses will be smelling in Morinville.”