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Norbord OSB plant working to control odor

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Norbord OSB plant working to control odor
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

In recent months, residents in the area of the Norbord oriented strand board plant in Solway have complained of a musty smell coming from the plant.


According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the odor is not harmful to people or the environment, but it can be objectionable.

On Monday, plant officials held a meeting at Eckles Town Hall to discuss the problem and the strategies they are using to mitigate the odor.

Norbord General Plant Manager Jack Wallingford said 16 people attended the meeting.

"I began with about a 10-minute introduction of the investments Norbord has made in modern emission-control technology - $10.7 million since 2002," Wallingford said in a press release. "(And) told them why we chose an environmentally friendly biofiltration approach to remove emissions, rather than using a natural-gas-consuming RCO (regenerative catalytic oxidizer) option."

He said he also described the likely causes of the odor, some of the potential options for long-term solutions and the frequent cleanings and steps to lessen the odor until the new equipment is installed.

"The meeting was really about getting to people's questions, and we allowed ample opportunity for questions from all parties in attendance," Wallingford said. "There was a wide range of questions from what is causing the odor to what steps we have taken, to some providing us with possible solutions."

He said he was happy to hear from several people in the audience that the odor had been reduced significantly since Norbord started working on the issue last fall.

"I was very glad to hear that we are having a positive impact," he said. "For nearly 30 years Norbord has been proud to be a good and responsible neighbor in this community, and we're committed to solving these recent odor issues."

Wallingford explained why the odor has occurred, saying the federal government recently implemented rules requiring mills around the country to take new steps to reduce emissions. Norbord considered two approaches to meeting the new guidelines. One choice, Regenerative Catalytic Oxidizers, which are large gas furnaces that burn off the emissions, would have consumed an enormous amount of natural gas.

"So we went with the far less intrusive, more environmentally friendly biofiltration approach, which has been used successfully in other Norbord mills and is proven technology in the U.S. and Europe for over 40 years," Wallingford said.

He said Norbord's environmental specialists, the supplier of the biofiltration equipment and other experts have worked to identify the cause of the odor. The company has also worked with the MPCA. Recently, a buildup of wood fiber composting inside the biofilter was identified as the likely source of the odor.

Norbord is now evaluating additional equipment alternatives that could exceed $1 million in cost, which will remove the wood fiber before it even enters the biofilter, thus further reducing the odor.

With the time needed for construction and testing, the new equipment would begin operating in late 2010.

Anyone with additional questions or who would like a tour of the plant can Wallingford at 751-2023 or e-mail at

Pioneer staff reports