The Sweet Smell of Success
They did it by working inside the existing building. "We tore out the incinerator that took half the space--it's not been in use since '97--and installed new floors. Then we added new processing equipment there and put that online." The plate presses were replaced by enclosed centrifuges that get more water out while containing spills and odors. They also added new boilers and electrical systems, plus new blowers that are 20 to 30 percent more efficient than the old ones. "They use 50 percent of our electrical power, so you can imagine the savings," Amicangelo says. And they closed gaps that let pigeons into the building--followed, sometimes, by a Cooper's hawk that killed and ate them on the spot.
Once the centrifuges were up and running, Amicangelo adds, they took out the plate presses and used the space to install "HVAC and odor-control equipment"--huge white tubes that snake out of the floor and vent through enormous carbon filters.
The foulest odors in the new building are next to the cake storage bunkers and in the truck bays. The latter smells powerfully of the ammonia produced by the lime mixed into the cake, while the former reeks of processed biosolids. But the plant no longer shares those smells as freely as it once did: "The only time the odor is really noticeable is when the cake is moved from the storage bunkers to trucks for removal," he says, "and that's done inside the building."
Sure enough, when he takes me to an outside balcony, the air smells as fresh as a spring day.