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Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality: "We deal with pollutants, not odours."

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Arkansas animal byproduct plant   Russellville is the county seat and largest city in Pope County, Arkansas, United States, and has a population of 27,920. It is home to Arkansas Tech University and Arkansas Nuclear One, Arkansas' only nuclear power plant. It is also home to a 36-acre animal byproduct rendering plant that has been operating since the 1950s under various owners. For DECADES, Russellville citizens have been suffering a significant odour impact from this facility. Russellville City Council asked for help to the EPA, but the reply of the EPA was quite stunning: "we are dealing with pollutants no with odours".

  In 2015, the city council of Russellville tired of not finding solutions to the significant odour impact of this plant decided to pass an ordinance about odour control. Unfortunately, this text did not change things much, so a couple of years later, another odour ordinance was passed. This second ordinance had a chapter authorising violators to be fined.

   The owners of the plant, instead of working with the citizens to try to solve the problem, decided to fill a federal lawsuit against the ordinance. The result was that the City Hall had to withdraw the ordinance. According to the Mayor of the city "We did do away with our local ordinance because, according to their argument, state law would prevail anyway," Horton said.

   Unfortunately, this facility has just air scrubbers and a chemical program to combat odours. These systems have odour abatement efficiencies not higher than 60% in the best of the cases for animal byproduct rendering plants. That is, chemical scrubbing will not do the job in rendering plants with odour complaints... it won't.

According to the owners, they have "invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in mechanical upgrades to the plant and on consultants whose speciality is odour control." This is probably not accurate: they have invested money in H2S control, which is not quite the same than odour control. With a tuned chemical scrubbing you may have a high efficiency of hydrogen sulfide removal, but you will still get a very significant odour load at the outlet. The odorants here are incondensable COVs that are hardly oxidized by scrubbing.

   The company argued that the ordinance, which targeted the company despite no judicial determination that the plant constituted a nuisance, denied the company due process. It also noted that the plant has always been properly licensed and has complied with air and water quality permits from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

   The owners say that they have spent thousands of dollars in odour control, but, how much is the odour impact costing to Russellville citizens?.  Are they right to claim that noxious odours will lower property values and will affect their quality of life?.

    Let's imagine that 5% to 20% of the people is affected by odour nuisance. For a population of 27,920 that would be 1,400 to 5,600 people affected. With a mean 2,53 persons per household, the number of houses affected would be rounding up in the range of 550 to 2,200. The median home value in Arkansas is $111,400, so the total value of all the houses affected by odour nuisance would be rounding up in the range between €61,000,000 and $250,000,000. Houses subject to moderate and severe odour nuisance sell at a discount of 5% and 12%, respectively, compared to houses without nuisance. Therefore the total loss of the properties would range between 3.1 million dollars if just 5% of the population is affected by moderate odour nuisance, and 29,5 million dollars, if 20% of the population is affected by severe odour nuisance.

   Between three and twenty-nine million five hundred thousand dollars, this is the cost of the odour impact to Russellville citizens.

  The Mayor mentioned that when asked for help to the state Department of Environmental Quality, this organism pointed out that they deal with pollutants, not odours.

   The DEQ has a wide experience dealing with noise, another known environmental stressor, but unfortunately, they have no idea about how to deal with odours. A pity cause after decades of complaints, not only the citizens of Russellville but also the plant owners deserve a solution to this problem.

   Find more info in this article by Linda Satter


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