With little more than a week left in August many of us are wondering why we can still smell cooked meat wafting through the air like an abattoir on gossamer wings. Last January we were informed by Champion Petfoods President and CEO Frank Burdzy that come August his company expected to have the plant’s odour problem licked as clean as a bowl of his company’s Orajen pet food.
And yet here we are – the last full week of August, and those of us with delicate olfactory glands are still being nasally violated by the smell of all those fresh ingredients we keep hearing so much about. Truth be told, I’ve never understood what all the fuss was about with respect to the smell. Having spent four years living a block away from the Hinton Pulp Mill, the worst Champion has breezed my way has been nothing to make my nose hairs stand up and take notice of, at least not by comparison. But I can understand how those with a lesser constitution might find a need to lock themselves in their homes with windows locked lest the putrid smell of local industry send them lunging for the nearest toilet or bucket.
So where are we at?
Perhaps Champion is simply waiting for Aug. 31 to throw the switch that will magically transform the air over Morinville like that cool part of the Wizard of Oz where they go from the dull black and white into full Technicolor. But I suspect there are no magic ruby slippers in this situation and Champion has run into yet another snag on the long and winding Yellow Brick Road towards finding a permanent solution.
Why else would Champion be on the agenda as a delegation for Sept. 13? Sure, the company could be coming to tell council it finally worked, but the fact that the mayor and councillors phones stopped ringing would tell them it was ok to open their windows once again. The lack of odour wafting through those windows would tell them the correct odour eating combination had been found. No, one suspects the presence of the Champion delegation is to let council know that more time is needed to crack the DaStinky Code.
There is no doubt Champion is working towards a solution. Anyone who views Burdzy as some evil Montgomery Burns figure counting his millions while laughing behind closed doors is simply wrong. A $500,000 investment in plasma injectors and another probable half million for venturi scrubbers and plant renovations prove there is a desire to fix the problem.
But if it turns out more time is needed, residents are not going to be pleased. Not because it will be another few weeks, months or years until things are set right, but because Champion’s neighbour’s (and that varies with the direction of the wind) have been largely kept in the dark since the company showed up at last spring’s trade show with their plan to sink the stink.
The oft-promised open house that was not possible through the winter months was also not made a reality in the spring or the summer. Media have not been invited to view the plant or been made aware of the progress over the summer. A simple monthly progress update would have made us all aware of the efforts and challenges as Champion has worked on implementing the new system. And with those progress reports would have come understanding and additional tolerance of the situation.
Instead we have heard nothing and hearing nothing simply stinks.