Odor concerns hasten plans for rendering plant at Rantoul pork facility

RANTOUL — Construction of a $10 million rendering plant at Rantoul Foods pork processing facility could begin this winter and be completed by the fall of 2014.

Company officials outlined plans for the rendering plant at the Rantoul Village Board study session this week.

Kurt Irelan, construction manager, said the company hopes to "get in the ground this fall" and to begin erecting panels in the winter.

Rantoul Foods President James Jendruczek said the company had planned to build the rendering plant all along but not so soon, but he said "recent developments" had made its construction a priority.

Those developments are neighbors' complaints of strong odor south of the facility from sludge produced by the plant that has been stockpiled and spread over fields by a farmer. The residents had complained not only of odor, but a huge influx of flies and a concern about the health effects.

Among those residents were Mark and Julie Hardy, who operate Hardys Reindeer Ranch. The Hardys said last fall's business was down, and they said some tour bus groups had already canceled summer visits this year because of news of the odor and the health concerns caused by the sludge.

Mayor Chuck Smith had also expressed concerns that the odor would seriously hamper plans to develop Rantoul's west side near the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Julie Hardy, when asked to comment, said state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, and state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, have been working closely with the Hardys on the issue. She declined further comment.

Toni Oliger, another outspoken resident of the area where the sludge has been stockpiled and applied, also declined comment.

Smith said he was "pleased with the progress that we seem to be making. ... I think all of the issues were addressed openly. They're making a concerted effort."

Jendruczek said the company has taken steps to reduce the odor, including treating particulates from the plant with lime, until the rendering process goes online.

Jendruczek said the company is not uncaring about those living around the plant.

"That is not what we want to do," he said of upsetting people. "We want to be good neighbors."

Jendruczek said the rendering plant, which he called a "byproduct recovery system," is a long-term solution that will take care of the particulates.

"We will be able to process these particulates so it won't be outside out of our control, not have it outside our gates, not have it be in the community at all," Jendruczek said. "I think this will be the best solution in the long term for our company, for our neighbors and for our community."

Asked by village board member Roger Jones why the byproduct recovery system hadn't been built "from the beginning," Jendruczek said it was in the plans, "but the cost was very high."

"This is going to be $10 million," Jendruczek said. "In the beginning, we were on a restricted budget, and we spent all the money to bring back the facility. It was in way more disrepair than we expected."

Owner Trim-Rite opened the plant, located at 205 Turner Drive, in 2011. Meadowbrook Farms originally opened the plant in 2004 but closed it in 2009 because of financial woes.

Jendruczek said at one time Meadowbrook had a rendering plant in its plans, but it was never built. He said Rantoul Foods had planned to build such a facility but decided to move it up on the priority list because of concerns expressed about odor.

Smith said earlier that the rendering plant will produce a byproduct of ash that will be used in dog food, and lard from hog fat.

It will also create hot water steam that will be used to sterilize the plant's cutting room and floors.

Rantoul Foods consultant Keith Strunk said the rendering plant will not produce an odor. He said he was in charge of building such a plant at a pork processing plant in Louisville, and the only odor comes from livestock brought to the facility.

He said the company will purchase a $700,000 pollution control system.

Irelan said the rendering plant would be built northeast of the main plant. That area is used as a detention basin to hold stormwater runoff, and that basin would have to be moved to another location, he said, possibly to an area south of the facility owned by the company that is currently farmland.

Irelan said the plant, which will be precast concrete, will be a self-contained unit with its own electrical service.

He said the hog bones will be trucked to the plant in a closed box truck. The offal will be piped overhead to the rendering plant cooker.

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