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AUSTIN, MN — Living in the upper Midwest, we can usually get used to off odors in the air, but around one major local business, the smell has long been known to be offensive to a lot of people.
Even driving by Austin on the interstate can have you holding your nose, but now there are plans at Hormel to reduce the odor.
For those new to the area it can be unbearable, but for longtime residents it goes unnoticed. Either way it’s something Hormel has already started to fix.
It is a smell that can be hard to describe.
“It overwhelms your senses big time some days,” said Shawn Cook of Austin.
Cook has to put up with it almost everyday on his commute to work.
“Certain days if the wind’s blowing just right on my way to work, which is close to almost every day, I’ll smell that and it’s very overwhelming,” Cook said.
Those at Hormel are already working on taking care of that very specific smell. Step one took place a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s a thermal oxidizer, but it’s actually an incinerator that just takes the vapors, incinerates all of those components and what comes out is essentially odor free air,” said Jim Schroeder, Vice President of Engineering for Hormel.
Not long ago they got the approval to move forward with step two.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) approved an amendment to Hormel’s air emissions permit that allows them to build a $25 million, 19,000 square foot addition to the plant.
“That’ll house some new equipment for our refined products processing area and that’ll allow us to more efficiently process and also allow us to put in some state of the art odor abatement equipment,” Schroeder said.
Which is the part that those traveling in or through Austin will notice the most.
“All of our primary processing vapors will go through odor abatement equipment so it’s going to have a significant impact on the odors,” Schroeder said.
Whether they are used to the smell or not, Austin residents will be pleased to notice the difference.
“That would be great, because then that way people can actually walk around town and not have to smell dead animals or anything like that. The bacon part’s okay,” Cook said.
They plan to start the new building next month and start putting the equipment in late next winter or early spring and hope to have the project all wrapped up next summer.