RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – A smell people cannot seem to escape in parts of Russellville is once again causing a city leader to take action.
On Tuesday evening, a councilman will hold a public meeting at the Russellville City Hall at 5:30 p.m. for all to discuss a strong stench coming from an animal byproduct plant on Bernice Avenue, but the company said they are already doing all they can to contain the odor.
There’s a long history between the city and plant. A few years ago, the Russellville City Council passed an odor ordinance that linked fines to smell complaints. Around the same time, the previous owner of the plant sold, and then the current owner, Premium Protein Products (PPP), sued the city for that ordinance. It has been repealed, but the conversation is still in full effect, and some would say the smell is too.
“The smell is just overpowering,” Russellville resident Mary Sadler described.
Her neighborhood has been close to the rendering plant since it was built in the 1950s. It recycles animal byproducts to create feed, but Sadler said its byproduct is smell.
“It is all the unusable, inedible parts of some of the animals that are raised here in Arkansas,” Sadler said.
According to City Councilman Paul Gray, you don’t always have to be close to turn your nose.
“The bad days are where you smell it everywhere,” Gray said
Gray stated last year Premium Protein Products assured the council the smell caused by cooking animal waste would improve, but he said the results aren’t there.
“I’ve talked to people in the environmental science field and biologist who tell me it doesn’t have to smell like that,” Gray said. “Basically, what I need them to be is a good neighbor.”
PPP General Manager Jason Blaylock said since taking over the plant, close to a decade ago, they have improved.
“I’m part of the community also,” Blaylock said. “I like to hold my head up high and think that I’m doing the best that I can.”
The largest improvement is the facility’s scrubbing system which eliminates odor from what they cook. He says in 2016, they added additional equipment and steps to make the system 10 times more capable than what it was before.
As an example, PPP stated the high-intensity scrubber they installed chemically deodorizes 25,000 cubic feet per minute when they were recommended, which is twice the size of what the plant design called for.
“It’s actually scrubbing three times before we ever discharge it into the atmosphere,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock also says within the last year, they have started taking a third less raw material so that what is inside the trailers is not spoiling in the heat as long before being cooked down.
“There’s going to be some things that you’re just not able to get out of it,” Blaylock said.
Since the plant’s original construction, Russellville has gone from a population of about 8,000 people to roughly 28,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
People nearby say the problem can sometimes go beyond the plant but the trucks that are dropping off material. Businesses close in proximity described putrid juices leaking onto roadways and making them feel sick.
“It’s hard for me to tell whether it’s changed due to any kind of improvements the plant has made or if it is just getting used to it,” Sadler said.
The public meeting is on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Russellville City Hall. KARK 4 News asked Premium Protein Products if they plan to attend. They stated they do not, adding they find more value in their time having one one-on-one discussions with local government, as opposed to being overwhelmed by citizen complaints.
Councilman Gray said he had reached out several times since Oct. 25 but had not received any response.
“I’m really not looking for penalties. I’m looking for change,” Gray said. “Their byproduct is not good for the city which is the smell.”