Have dinner on the terrace?First, keep the smell

Des Moines, Iowa (Associated Press)-In the past ten years, parts of downtown Des Moines have been transformed by new apartments, fashionable shops, and small breweries. The distant past reconciled.

But a strong reminder of the city’s legacy remains: the stench. A pungent smell of rotten meat often wafts through all the shiny new developments, reminding people that the region’s history as a pork processing center is not so glamorous.

“You can’t escape it,” said Brandon Brown, president of the Des Moines Downtown Neighborhood Association, calling it “very frustrating.”

Many cities eager for new investment and vitality welcome urban housing and entertainment venues into the old part of the town. These areas have tougher industries but are stumped by what happens when people like Brown move into high-end apartments in the city center. , Actually want to enjoy a latte or dine on the outdoor terrace.

After decades of downplaying or simply ignoring this issue, Des Moines officials recently started a comprehensive study that will lead to stricter supervision of some smelly manufacturing plants to eventually clear the air.

Similar difficulties also appear in other cities with smelly companies, especially plants that are common in agricultural areas and even some large cities. Angry residents are complaining and filing lawsuits with officials, while some leading companies are installing new equipment, paying neighbors or even going bankrupt.

No one is tracking such disputes, but Jacek Koziel, a professor at Iowa State University who studies air quality and livestock odors, said he believes the conflict may intensify. Sometimes, as in Des Moines, this is because more noses are closer to the unpleasant smell, but in other places, residents just work harder to push for change.

“This situation is very common at this juncture in the entire livestock industry and meat packaging plants or feed processing plants,” Koziel said. “It’s very difficult. For us engineers, we know that there are technologies that can minimize the impact, but with that comes all the financial reality of doing so.”

In Des Moines, residents and workers have complained for decades about the smell of an industrial area less than a mile from the city center, claiming that the smell is rotten or resembles animal feces. Brown took a more charitable view, labeling this scent as “yeast.”

People usually blame two companies: pork processor Pine Ridge Farms and oil refinery Darling Components. Although the city set up an odor board and odor hotline, its efforts were ineffective and only recently gave up. People who moved into expensive apartments where warehouses and scrap yards were replaced complained that disgusting odors permeated periodically. In their community.

City officials agreed that there was a problem, but said they needed more data to decide what to do.

“You have to know what the truth is outside, and then make the plan applicable to every industry,” said SuAnn Donovan, deputy director of Des Moines Community Services. The new study will collect air samples and establish a baseline for air quality.

Iowa is an agricultural powerhouse, and Donovan quickly noticed that the city wanted to work with Pine Ridge, Darling, and other companies.

Darling did not respond to inquiries about its Des Moines business.

Pine Ridge Farms is owned by the meat industry giant Smithfield. Smithfield said in a statement that its pork processing plant opened in 1937, has approximately 1,000 employees, and slaughters approximately 4,000 pigs per day. The company said that as more people move nearby, it has invested millions of dollars in new technologies, such as air handling equipment, to reduce odors.

The statement said: “We also follow a strict daily cleaning plan during and after each production run.” “At the end of each week, we will conduct a deep cleaning from top to bottom to minimize odors.”

Even if efforts are made to reduce odors, rendering is a particularly exciting business. These plants use heat, centrifuges and other technologies to convert waste animal tissues into fat and protein for a wide range of uses, including animal feed, fertilizer, and cosmetics. According to recent estimates, there are more than 200 factories in the United States and Canada.

In Fresno, California, a civic group filed a lawsuit against the Darling refinery. The stench produced by the plant was so strong that residents complained about health problems. Last year, the company agreed to close the plant. Another rendering factory near Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, also chose to close because it cannot coexist with the new housing nearby.

Refineries in the Los Angeles industrial area have been required to comply with strict new regulations. In Denver, where the development of new cities is particularly extensive, the conflict between new residents and old industries has been fierce.

“The people who move in are very savvy and they are not afraid to complain,” said Greg Thomas, the city’s director of environmental quality.

Residents of South St. Paul, Minnesota filed a class action lawsuit over smoke from an oil refinery, and neighbors received payments of up to $1,000 as part of a $750,000 settlement.

Nevertheless, the smell of rotten flesh still exists.

“This lawsuit seems to have no effect,” said Chris Robinson, who lives less than a mile from the factory. “Just last night, my husband could not sit on the deck. The situation is still very bad.”

Brown of Des Moines said that with new outdoor projects going on, from football fields to whitewater rafting routes, the city has no choice but to purify the air.

“You don’t want the smell to contaminate the experience,” Brown said.


Follow Scott McFetridge on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smcfetridge

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