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Sibley residents to breathe easier -- they hope

SIBLEY, Iowa — The Sibley City Council heard plans by Iowa Drying and Processing (IDP) during Monday night’s meeting to improve air conditions around the plant — more specifically, control the smell produced by the factory.

The company’s effort to mask the odor will likely come as a welcome relief to many located in downtown Sibley. The Iowa Drying and Processing plant took over the former AMPI plant in 2013.

The stench is a problem for several residents of Sibley who live and conduct business in the downtown area near the plant. Sibley resident Priscilla Grunow expressed her displeasure.

“Well, all I have to say about it is that some days it really smells bad in the summertime, and you can’t sit outside or have your windows open, hang clothes outside, or do anything because the smell is so bad,” Grunow said.

“I’ve heard people complain that when they’re downtown shopping, it really smells bad,” she continued. “The whole town at times smells so bad, and there’s nothing that we can do about (it). I have heard from other people that they were told we just have to put up with the smell because we are a farming community.”

Jason Darnell lives near the plant and regrets purchasing his home due to the often-overwhelming aroma. He recalled last summer, when temperatures were especially high, he was forced to turn off his air conditioning to keep the smell from entering his house. His wife, Brenda, has an in-home daycare that he said has also suffered due to the situation.

“I know that there are people that have came for an interview and never brought their kid (to the daycare) because of that smell,” Darnell said. “We have complaints from daycare parents all the time when they drop their kids off in the morning and when they pick them up in the afternoon because of the smell.”

In addition to potentially hurting business, it has made entertaining guests nearly impossible, Darnell said. Several times in the past two years, he and his wife canceled family barbecues due to the gathering falling on a smelly day. He noted the offending smell isn’t present every day, but in recent weeks has been as prevalent as many as four out of seven days in a week. 

Mike Anderson, a former employee of IDP, explained what causes the odor. 

“The main everyday stench that comes from the plant is mostly from the blood-drying process,” Anderson said. “It’s sprayed in as a mist into a heated chamber to the point that when it hits the floor, it’s dry powder. 

“The funky chicken smell is from a chicken liver substance that they run,” he continued. “There is also a stale beer smell once in a while that comes from drying spent brewer’s yeast from the Schell’s brewery in New Ulm.”

“I think it’s great that it’s a new business for the town of Sibley and that they are providing employment for people,” said Sibley resident Missy Julius. “But the smell is horrendous, and it doesn’t matter what part of town you are in — you can smell it miles away depending on wind direction. During the summer, you can’t have your windows open in the house, or go for a walk, depending on which way the wind is blowing, without wanting to throw up.

“You know it’s bad when your 3-year-old plugs his nose and says, ‘Oh the blood plant stinks.’ There has to be some type of filter they can use to help stop the smell. If I was looking at moving to a town and was touring the town and smelled that, there is no way I would even consider moving there. I’m all for employment opportunities, don’t get me wrong, but not if it leaves an unwelcome smell to our town.”

City Council member Jan Henningsen said IDP hired a specialist to look into what could be done about the situation. The company is now looking into installing a deodorizing system on the roof of the facility that would mask the smell of the processing that is emitted from the building. Henningsen said the idea was used at a different facility that produces cat or dog food but had similar smell issues. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Henningsen said. 

City Administrator Glenn Anderson elaborated on the company’s plan. 

“As I understand it, they’ve hired an engineer,” Anderson detailed. “They paid him upward of $10,000 to come in and give them a solution, and the solution they believe is going to happen is they are going to create a vent. They are going to pipe a wintergreen liquid deodorizer, let’s say. I don’t know if deodorizer is the right word, but what it simply does is, as air is coming out of the vent ... at the end of the vent, they will have sprayer nozzles.

“What it does is throw these wintergreen particles into the air as the air is passing by them,” Anderson went on. “The air that is coming out with the odor we don’t like is now scented with wintergreen. Then the wintergreen will mask or cover-up or overwhelm the smell that is there — mix with it — and when it gets put up into the air, it comes down smelling wintergreen.” 

Anderson theorized that the wintergreen smell was chosen as the best option for combating the odor. He noted that the piping and vents will need to be put into place when the weather improves. Colder temperatures are not conducive to either the sprayers involved or construction. 

“They are going to do it when the weather warms up,” Anderson said. “For a date, who knows, there’s not a specific date assigned to it, but I hope something will be done this spring.” 

Grunow also looks forward to the deodorizing apparatus being installed.

“Yes, it would be great,” she said. “I don’t mind the plant being there — just don’t like the smell. I also have heard comments about having it in the country, but I don’t think the people in the country should have to smell that (either). 

“Also, I hope there’s something they can do, because we do enjoy sitting outside in our backyard in the summertime,” Grunow added. “I hope they can find an answer to this problem. I understand it’s jobs for people, but I don’t think we should have to put up with the smell. After all, we were here before they were. We’ve lived here 20-plus years, and they should be able to listen to us as well.”

Darnell is apprehensive if the plant’s idea will actually solve the problem and not just create a new one. If the addition solves the dilemma, he’d welcome the relief. 

“If it were to help (the smell), yeah. If it’s some kind of minty thing they’re going to add to it, it’s only going to add a minty smell to a rotting hog,” he said.

“I worked for five years in the rendering plant in Worthington, and that is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the smell that comes out of this plant.”

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

(507) 376-7323
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