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Thread: How far should an ethanol plant be buffered from residential areas?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    How far should an ethanol plant be buffered from residential areas?

    We have a development that would bring an ethanol plant and some M-1 and C type locations as an industrial park. The ethanol plant would be located about a half mile away from the closest residences. Is that far enough? Especially if the wind will be coming straight down that way from the NW a lot of times. Is there any sort of rule of thumb regarding ethanol plant location?

  2. #2

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    Part of the preliminary work for this plant should be to be evaluating the location from atmospheric chemestry and risk assessment standpoints. Minimum distances with factors of safety should be calculated rather than guessed at or by using "rules of thumb".

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    As much as your typical refinery. Fire hazard is the same and the fumes are similar to a typical oil refinery.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    As much as your typical refinery. Fire hazard is the same and the fumes are similar to a typical oil refinery.
    Actually, it's more like a distillery. The smell reminds you of pretzels or baking bread. As for the setback/buffering, take into account such factors as increased truck traffic, etc. Given the size of the structures, there is no good way to buffer them. The parking areas need site screening as well as the perimeter of the site. See if they will do some landscaping around the office building.
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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm....

    Does the plant include a bio-refinery? CO2 recapture? or any of those nice things? 1/4 to 1/2 mile would be the minimum I think and if its on the other side of a road or rail line, so much the better. The storage of volatile materials should be done within the scope of a fire protection plan and be located as far from residential uses as possible.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    It would be nice if communities (including ones I've worked for) could be pro-active enough to regulate distances from res. uses in the zoning ordinance, to allow ethanol plants as a permitted use. But, I've never seen it. But, I've never heard of them being any more offensive than other heavy industrial uses. Of course, the ethanol plant reps would insist they don't effect the neighbors negatively at all, while the neighbors will angrily protest, showing photos of ethanol plants on fire, etc.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    We have some ability to direct the distance in some way since the larger development is a PUD. We have the traffic routed off before it gets to the residential sections. The smells or any emissions are what concern me. Maintaining their quality of life is important to us.

  8. #8
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I have been around a couple of them, they don't smell that bad. I kind of like the smell, I agree with the yeasty beery sort of odor. We have homes about 1/4 mile away and no one complains. The complaints we get are about noise from traffic and banging on trucks/railcars.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    As WHose Your Planner said, it is a distillery rather than a refinery (although referred to as corn refining). Noise is a minor concern. Smells are more significant. The smell is not a constant one. Wind and atmospheric conditions will dictate when it concentrates in a given area, such as near these homes. In the projects we have worked with, there are instances when you will smell the plant well beyond a mile away. Again, this is not every day.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    News Report from The County Next Door TM

    This plant will be right out my front door. When I open my door I'll see a field and then this plant."

    ...trying to prevent that plants from moving in. They say they've attended several Pike County commission meetings, hoping to gain support from local leaders.

    The commissioners declined an interview, but they did say their hands are tied. Pike County has no zoning laws preventing an industrial plant from setting up shop next to homes.
    http://www.14wfie.com/Global/story.asp?s=6568173
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  11. #11
    From a safety standpoint, the USDOT Emergency Response Guidebook (which most first responders will refer to in the event of a hazardous materials event) recommends initial downwind evacuation of 1000 feet for a "large spill." In the event of a fire, it recommends isolating for 1/2 mile in all directions, and considering evacuations for 1/2 mile in all directions.

    Just something to keep in mind if you're considering the impacts of a mishap at the plant.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    As one who grew up in Cedar Rapids and used to live in Decatur, the smells of grain processing are nothing new and can be endured. What I would want to know is, what kind of emissions come out of the plant and how are they affected by Iowa's climate? There is an ADM plant in SW Cedar Rapids right next to the US 30 freeway, and they frequently have to close the freeway in the winter because the emissions from the plant get so thick and cause white-out conditions during cold weather. Will the steam or emissions from the process cause any such problems?
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  13. #13
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DecaturHawk View post
    As one who grew up in Cedar Rapids and used to live in Decatur, the smells of grain processing are nothing new and can be endured. What I would want to know is, what kind of emissions come out of the plant and how are they affected by Iowa's climate? There is an ADM plant in SW Cedar Rapids right next to the US 30 freeway, and they frequently have to close the freeway in the winter because the emissions from the plant get so thick and cause white-out conditions during cold weather. Will the steam or emissions from the process cause any such problems?
    I don't think that is an issue. The one we have outside of town is right next to US 34 freeway and it's never been a problem. It doesn't put out anywher near the amount of steam that the ADM plant does. Must be a different process.
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  14. #14
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    Farther than you think

    They reek! Maybe not everyday but it doesn't matter. If it is anexisting residential area I would say at least 1 mile. It is a quality of life issue.

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