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Gadsden Times, Jan. 27, 2021

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Pilgrim’s Pride General Manager of Protein Conversion Mark Glover said he looks forward to an ongoing dialogue with the community and an opportunity to “dispel the blatant misinformation being spread by some from outside Gadsden.”

Glover spoke Tuesday to Alabama Department of Environmental Management representatives at a public hearing regarding his company’s air permit application for construction of an animal food ingredient plant — a rendering plant — on property now owned by the Gadsden Airport Authority on Steele Station Road... Glover was the first speaker at Tuesday’s public hearing; he was followed by 14 speakers who opposed the plant.

He thanked ADEM for holding the public hearing, which was recorded and is available on the agency’s YouTube channel.

“We understand there is some opposition to this proposed plant,” Glover said. “Tonight, we want to directly address all Etowah County residents.

He said the proposed pet food ingredient plant would be built with the most advanced available technology, which would promote sustainability.

“Simply put, the high-paying jobs and economic development this plant will create will not come at the expense of Etowah County’s natural resources or quality of life,” Glover said.

“For example, our thermal oxidizer odor-eliminating technology is state of the art. The system ensures that all process vapors and odors are collected and destroyed, meaning that odor will not leave the property,” he said.

“The building will be kept at negative pressure, which means that if a door to the plant is opened, the odor cannot escape outward into the community,” Glover said. “It’s important to understand that our odor abatement system is closely monitored and data is regularly reported to the state to ensure compliance.”

He described this air quality and odor elimination technology as proven and extremely effective — said it is the most advanced available technology and is being used in many places around the world and in the United States.

Glover said similar odor-eliminating technology currently is being used at a recently built pet food ingredient plant in Ward, South Carolina. He said a recent Birmingham TV news report featured a woman who lives a half-mile from that modern plant, and showed her saying she cannot smell the plant.

CBS 42 investigation: Former opposition to South Carolina rendering plant now say they were wrong, Jan. 19, 2021

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SALUDA COUNTY, S.C. (WIAT) — For months… (some) citizens in Etowah County have opposed a project by poultry company, Pilgrim’s Pride. The operation would involve trucking in chicken parts to a facility that would convert the product into ingredients used in pet food. There are fears about foul odors, truck traffic, environmental impacts, property values, and the effect on future economic growth.

Almost 300 miles away in Saluda County, South Carolina, neighbors there waged a similar battle in 2017.

“We actually got a lawyer to do an injunction to try and keep them from building the plant,” Saluda County local Denise Boatwright recalled.

Boatwright and her neighbors joined together to fight the project, while the company applied for permits.

“Anybody that lived within five miles of this plant, we invited them to come to these meetings,” Paul Bartley, who also opposed the plant, added.

According to Bartley, worries stemmed from previous issues with an older animal rendering facility operating in the county.

“There were multiple questions that came up at that time because of the negative experience we have had with Valley Proteins right down the road,” Bartley said.

Bartley previously served as the mayor of Ridge Spring, a town in Saluda County. He recalled several incidents involving trucks from the older facility.

“The trucks came through there all the time and we had a myriad of issues with their trucks spilling the raw material on the road,” Bartley continued. “Once this came about we were concerned that… we [were] going to experience those same things.”

The new South Carolina plant, proposed by SC Pet Food Solutions, promised odor-eliminating technology, covered trucks, and wastewater treatment to minimize effects to neighbors, but many still had concerns. Despite the objections, SC Pet Food Solutions was built and has been Boatwright and Bartley’s neighbor for about two years.

“I have been pleasantly surprised. I am thankful that it turned out like it is,” Boatwright admitted. “The way their trucks are, they aren’t open, so they do not spill things on the highway.”

According to construction information provided by SC Pet Food Solutions to the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control, a regenerative thermal oxidizer and five packed tower scrubbers help control odors at the facility.

In Alabama, Pilgrim’s Pride has promised the same technology will be installed at the facility, if approved. The company presented details during plans at a Gadsden City Council meeting in December 2020.

Pilgrim’s Pride is committed to protecting the water supply, Jan. 4, 2021

There are a number of advantages that Pilgrim’s is implementing, which will go above and beyond to promote clean water. Please remember that our plant employees will live and play here, assuming the council grants permission for the project, which means we want to safeguard our environment just as much as current residents do.

The water treatment is broken down into two area: storm water and process wastewater.

Alabama has very few requirements for treatment of storm water. However, Pilgrim’s storm water design is unique to many areas of the country and offers protection to storm water receiving streams.  This proposed plant will have a collection system for all the hard surfaces. Hard Surfaces are the roofs, paved or concrete roads/driveways, etc.  In general, anything that hits the hard surface will be washed directly to a number of collection basins awaiting future treatment.

As the water travels to the basins, sediment will be trapped through a number of devices before being properly disposed. The water from hard surfaces will be stored in lined basins and will be pumped to the onsite full treatment system to remove oils, nitrogen, total solids, BOD, etc. before being piped to the city for additional treatment by the city’s system.  Pilgrim’s system is designed to collect water from a 50-year rain event which occurs approximately 2% of the time. We’ve strived to design a system that is the best in Etowah County.  

The process water is collected in a completely separate from storm water. The process water will be treated in a full biological system with some excellent design features. The treatment process is aerobic with lots of mixing. This will eliminate any chance of an anaerobic situation that is known to create odors.

The process water treatment system will have redundant pumps, blower, control probes, etc., as well as a fully operational onsite testing lab, to ensure discharge water quality. Pilgrim’s has added extra measures to place all the aeration blowers and almost every pump within in a building for noise abatement.

Should the process above fail operationally or not meet our high clean water standards, we will divert the water to a lined storage basin we call our emergency storage basin.  Water from this basin will then be reprocessed in the water treatment plant before being discharged by pipe directly to the city’s wastewater treatment plant for additionally treatment.

In the unlikely event the emergency storage basin is full and our discharge is still not acceptable, we will stop production until water is able to be properly treated to meet our high clean water standards.

Gadsden Messenger, Dec. 18, 2020

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Head of corporate affairs and sustainability for Pilgrim’s Pride and Pilgrim’s majority shareholder, JBS USA, Cameron Bruett, answered the questions posed toward Gadsden’s future.

“I think [some of] the concerns of the community, and they have valid concerns, are rooted either in misinformation or stereotypes of legacy rendering facilities,” said Bruett. “I think what’s most important to understand is this is not your grand-daddy’s rendering facility.”

A Nebraska native and Tuskegee University graduate, Bruett has been affiliated with JBS USA since 2008. Bruett noted that opportunity arose as a key factor in his relationship with the company, giving some insight as to why he felt impressed to remain an advocate for its mission for so many years.

“Our mission is to be the best and most respected company in our industry,” said Bruett. “That embodies everything we do, whether that’s sustainability, our business practices or how we deal with our customers and clients. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but that’s what we’re striving to be. What’s kept me at the company for this long is the opportunity, but I also believe in the men and women I work alongside. I know I’m not some fancy Harvard Ivy League graduate, but they let me sit at the table with further decision makers of the company and I can have an influence. When things don’t meet our standards, we call ourselves out and we hold ourselves accountable. It’s just a really great company to work for.”

Bruett further remarked that long-term relationships between hourly employees and the company are common and management teams typically work for JBS USA for 15 to 20 years. Concerning the Gadsden plant and the creation of jobs, Pilgrim’s claims that more than 100 construction jobs would arise during the facility’s development. Following construction, the plant plans to employ more than 90 permanent workers, with starting wages of $16.40 per hour. According to Pilgrim’s, the average wage across all positions is over $20 per hour.

While Pilgrim’s estimates that the project would attract more than $360,000 annually to the city, county and schools and $90,000 for the city in taxes, the financial drive of the project results from the company’s plan to boost the poultry and agriculture industries in the state. Bruett described Alabama as a place that understands the importance of agriculture and said that the company’s previous experience in Alabama produced more than 3,200 employed personnel, with an annual state payroll of over $113 million. Aside from the $70 million Gadsden project, Bruett said that Pilgrim’s has invested nearly $150 million in capital expenditures to invest in facilities.

When it comes to Gadsden specifically, Bruett shared what attracted Pilgrim’s to the city.

“The positive business climate,” he said. “The men and women that we’ve met here have been phenomenal. They want to grow Gadsden. They’re local folks who’ve been here and grew up here. They believe in the community. So, they’re not trying to do anything that’s going to hurt the community. They’re thinking about the long-term interest as well…those are the type of partners that we want.”

Long-term is the philosophy Bruett reiterated, describing Gadsden as a “thriving, burgeoning hub of economic activity,” emphasizing that Pilgrim’s desires to serve as a catalyst for further business growth in the community.

Aside from potential jobs and economic growth, certain concerns reoccur as the community investigates the rendering plant’s establishment in Gadsden.

The issue of odor and water contamination remain two major topics circulating rendering plant discussion. Bruett reiterated the plant’s focus on utilizing what the Environmental Protection Agency refers to as “best available technology,” which includes the plant’s dealings with both odor and wastewater. According to Bruett, the employment of a thermal oxidizer is designed to destroy the odor at the source, with odors combusted inside the facility (due to a negative air pressure system) with the intention that odors are never emitted. What is emitted, according to Pilgrim’s, is odorless carbon dioxide, nitrogen and clean water vapor.

The plant’s design incorporates an internal delivery area, which would allow for materials to be offloaded inside and trucks scrubbed clean prior to exiting the facility. Concerning the trucks entering and leaving the premises, Bruett did not foresee the average of 2.5 trucks per hour posing as a traffic issue on weekdays or Sunday, nor did he envision the trucks negatively impacting the quality of the roadways.

“These are food grade plants,” said Bruett. “They’ve got to be clean. They’ve got to be sanitary. You’ve got to be able to eat off the floor in these plants and provide really great products, because you’re producing food for people – food that people give to their children, or in the case of this rendering plant, to the children’s pets.”

Following recent statements by numerous local individuals and organizations like Coosa Riverkeeper addressing the plant’s disposal of wastewater, Bruett echoed Pilgrim’s stance that its water treatment technology exceeds permitting requirements. 

“We share Coosa Riverkeeper’s passion for clean, safe and protected natural resources,” said Bruett. “A critical element of this proposed state-of-the-art pet ingredient production project in Gadsden is its robust water treatment technology, which will protect area waterways like the Coosa River. All water used during the pet ingredient production process would be collected and treated at the proposed facility. It’s important to know that all water, including storm water, is treated and cleaned onsite to meet our high clean water standards. The clean and treated water is then piped to the local water treatment plant, ensuring further protection of local waterways.”

Pilgrim’s Pride on proposed anti-poultry legislation: ‘Proposed bill is based on a false premise’, Dec. 17, 2020

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Cameron Bruett, Head of Corporate Affairs for Pilgrim’s Pride released this statement to ABC 33/40:

“While we respect the legislative process and abide by laws in the communities where we live and work, this proposed bill is based on a false premise.

The proposed animal ingredient plant would deploy state-of-the-art technology to prevent odors from leaving the property and ensure all water is cleaned and treated before it is sent to the local wastewater treatment plant. Our commitment to the Gadsden community is that our $70 million initial investment, our estimated annual $65 million investment in direct and indirect local spending, and the 90 permanent jobs we create will improve quality of life for Gadsden citizens, while preserving her precious natural resources.

We’re confident that upon examination of the facts, local leaders and the people of Gadsden will understand that our investment will serve as an economic simulant that will keep Gadsden growing – something other communities where modern animal ingredient plants have been built have seen.”

Gadsden Times, Dec. 9, 2020

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[Pilgrim’s Pride head of Corporate Affairs Cameron] Bruett said the company looked for a site in a community that was favorable to agriculture and toward the poultry industry. Pilgrim’s Pride already is invested in Alabama, he said, with $146 million in recent capital expenditures in three Alabama plants, in Enterprise, Russellville, and Guntersville.

“Gadsden is very attractive,” Bruett said, because of economic development going on here. “We want to be a part of that. We want to be a facility that Gadsden and its neighbors can be proud of.”

He said the plant would bring jobs paying from $16 up to $30 an hour, adding, “We think that presents an attractive opportunity for Gadsden residents.”

Bruett said he understands the history of rendering facilities might not be attractive.

“We’re not going to build your granddaddy’s rendering plant,” he said. “Rendering has come so far.”

He said the entire plant would be under negative pressure. Trucks bringing in poultry processing by-products would pull inside the plant and doors would close, keeping any odor inside.

He said the company is concerned about odor control not just for the community, but for its employees. “People don’t want to work in a stinky plant,” he said. “We don’t want to be a detriment” to the community. 

“We’re excited,” Bruett said. “This is not a pipe dream. The technology is proven” and in use today.

CBS 42: Video of Cameron’s 19-minute interview, Dec. 8, 2020

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