clearn.png
Saturday December 4th, 2021 5:00AM

Dinner on the patio? First, hold the stench

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Parts of downtown Des Moines have been so transformed in the past decade by new apartments, trendy shops and microbreweries, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the present with the not-so-distant past.

But one strong reminder of the city's heritage remains: the stench. A pungent smell of rancid meat regularly wafts through all the shiny new development, a reminder of the region’s less polished history as a pork processing center.

"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 have welcomed urban housing and entertainment venues into older sections of town that housed grittier industries, only to be stumped by what happens when someone like Brown, who moved into an upscale downtown apartment, actually wants to enjoy a latte or meal at an outdoor patio.

After decades of downplaying or simply ignoring the problem, Des Moines officials recently began a comprehensive study that will lead to tighter regulations on some smelly manufacturing plants to finally clear the air.

Similar difficulties are cropping up in other cities with smelly businesses, especially rendering plants that are common in agricultural regions and even some big cities. Angry residents are deluging officials with complaints and filing lawsuits, while some leading companies are installing new equipment, making payments to neighbors or even closing down.

No one tracks such disputes, but Iowa State University professor Jacek Koziel, who studies air quality and livestock odors, said he thinks the conflicts may be increasing. Sometimes, as in Des Moines, it’s because more noses are nearer the bad smells, but in other spots, it's that residents are simply pushing harder for changes.

“It’s very common in this juncture of animal agriculture in general and meat packing plants or feed processing plants,” Koziel said. “It’s very tough. For us engineers, we know there are technologies to minimize the impact but then come all the fiscal realities of doing that.”

In Des Moines, residents and workers have for decades complained about the smells from an industrial area little more than a mile from downtown, describing the scent as putrid or akin to animal waste. Brown takes a more charitable view, labeling the smell “yeasty."

People typically blame two companies: pork processor Pine Ridge Farms and rendering plant Darling Ingredients. Although the city created an odor board and odor hotline, its efforts were ineffective and largely abandoned until recently, when people who moved into expensive apartments that had replaced warehouses and scrap yards complained of nauseating smells periodically settling over their neighborhoods.

City officials agree there's a problem, but say they need more data before deciding what to do.

“You’ve got to know what is the truth that’s out there, and then make the plans work for each of the industries,” said SuAnn Donovan, deputy director of Des Moines’ Neighborhood Services Department. The new study will take air samples and figure out a baseline for air quality.

Iowa is an agricultural powerhouse and Donovan is quick to note that the city wants to work with Pine Ridge, Darling and other companies.

Darling didn’t respond to an inquiry about its Des Moines operations.

Pine Ridge Farms is owned by meat industry giant Smithfield, which said in a statement that its pork plant, which employs about 1,000 people, opened in 1937 and slaughters about 4,000 hogs daily. As more people moved nearby, the company said, it had invested millions of dollars on new technology, such as air treatment equipment, to reduce odors.

“We also follow a rigorous daily cleaning schedule during and after each production run,” the statement said. “At the end of each week, we perform a top-to-bottom deep cleaning to keep odor to a minimum.”

Even with efforts to reduce smells, rendering is an especially pungent business. The plants use heat, centrifuges and other techniques to convert waste animal tissue into fats and proteins for many uses, including as animal feed, fertilizer and cosmetics. There are more than 200 plants in the U.S. and Canada, according to recent estimates.

In Fresno, California, a citizens group filed a lawsuit against a Darling rendering plant that produced a stench so strong that residents complained of health problems. Last year, the company agreed to close the plant. Another rendering plant near the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova that had operated for more than 50 years also opted to close after concluding it couldn’t coexist with new nearby housing.

Rendering plants in an industrial area of Los Angeles have been ordered to abide by strict new rules. And in Denver, where new urban development has been especially extensive, there have been sharp clashes between new residents and old industries.

“People moving in are savvy and they’re not afraid to complain,” said Greg Thomas, the city’s director of environmental quality.

Residents in South St. Paul, Minnesota, filed a class action lawsuit over fumes from a rendering plant, and neighbors received up to $1,000 payments as part of a $750,000 settlement.

Still, though, smells of rancid meat remain.

“The lawsuit didn’t seem to make a difference,” said Chris Robinson, who lives less than a mile from the plant. “Just last night, my husband couldn’t sit out on the deck. It’s still really bad.”

Brown, of Des Moines, said with new outdoor projects underway, from a soccer stadium to a whitewater rafting course, the city has little option but to clear the air.

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

___

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

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Agriculture
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
El Salvador to build cryptocurrency-fueled "Bitcoin City"
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele says his government will build an oceanside “Bitcoin City” at the base of a volcano
10:44AM ( 8 minutes ago )
GOP embraces natural immunity as substitute for vaccines
Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity
10:32AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Hamas gunman kills 1 before Israeli police shoot him dead
A Hamas militant has opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one Israeli and wounding four others before he was fatally shot by Israeli police
10:30AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Tunisian trial shines light on use of military courts
A 40-year-old Tunisian computer engineer turned corruption fighter will stand trial again in a military court Monday
9:15AM ( 1 hour ago )
Chileans vote in highly polarized presidential election
Chileans are voting on the country’s next president following a polarizing campaign in which leading candidates vowed to chart a new direction in the region’s most economically advanced country
9:05AM ( 1 hour ago )
Palestinian kills 1, injures 4 before police shoot him dead
A Palestinian assailant killed one Israeli and injured four others near the entrance to a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site before being fatally shot by Israeli police
9:03AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Tens of thousands march against Belgium's COVID measures
Ten of thousands of people marched through central Brussels to protest against the reinforced COVID-19 measures that the government has imposed to counter the latest spike in coronavirus cases
9:09AM ( 1 hour ago )
French special forces go to Guadeloupe amid COVID pass riots
France is sending police special forces to its overseas Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting scenes
7:30AM ( 3 hours ago )
Saudi critic's fiance urges Justin Bieber to cancel F1 show
The fiance of slain Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi joined a chorus of voices calling on pop star Justin Bieber to cancel his concert in Saudi Arabia next month
4:31AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business
China fines tech giants over anti-monopoly violations
China's market regulator has fined tech giants including Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings for failing to report corporate acquisitions
3:17AM ( 1 day ago )
Vietnamese workers at Chinese factory in Serbia cry for help
Vietnamese workers helping construct the first Chinese car tire factory in Europe say they're shivering in barracks without heat, going hungry and stuck in a plainland in Serbia because their passports have been taken by their Chinese employer
2:55AM ( 1 day ago )
Elizabeth Holmes takes the stand in her criminal fraud trial
The government has rested its case in the trial of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes
6:44PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Protests erupt over virus rules in Austria, Italy, Croatia
Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, have marched through Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections
2:27PM ( 20 hours ago )
Protests erupt over virus limits in Austria, Italy, Croatia
Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, have marched through Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections
2:01PM ( 20 hours ago )
Thousands protest virus restrictions in Vienna, Zurich
Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, have marched through Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections
12:16PM ( 22 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Bowing to protests, India's Modi agrees to repeal farm laws
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he would repeal the controversial agriculture laws that sparked yearlong protests from tens of thousands of farmers and posed a significant challenge to his administration
9:36AM ( 2 days ago )
Modi vows to repeal India farm laws after prolonged protests
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his government will withdraw the controversial agriculture laws that prompted yearlong protests from tens of thousands of farmers and posed a significant political challenge to his administration
5:46AM ( 2 days ago )
India to repeal controversial farm laws that led to protests
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government will withdraw the controversial farm laws that prompted year-long protests from tens of thousands of farmers who said the laws will shatter their livelihoods
11:30PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Agriculture
El Salvador to build cryptocurrency-fueled "Bitcoin City"
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele says his government will build an oceanside “Bitcoin City” at the base of a volcano
10:44AM ( 9 minutes ago )
GOP embraces natural immunity as substitute for vaccines
Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity
10:32AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Hamas gunman kills 1 before Israeli police shoot him dead
A Hamas militant has opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one Israeli and wounding four others before he was fatally shot by Israeli police
10:30AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Missing Chinese tennis star reappears in public in Beijing
Missing tennis star Peng Shuai has reappeared in public at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizer, as the ruling Communist Party tried to quell fears about her while suppressing information after she accused a senior leader of sexual assault
10:25AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Sudan military leaders reinstate deposed prime minister
Sudan’s military and civilian leaders have reached a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was deposed in a coup last month
10:15AM ( 38 minutes ago )