AVEKA begins next step in effort to reduce noise, odor

Plans continue to progress to extend the smokestack, pictured above from a ground up perspective and pictured below as part of the overall processing exhaust system, at the AVEKA Nutra Processing facility in north Waukon. Plans are currently underway to extend the existing smokestack an additional 30 feet, from its current 55 feet tall to 85 feet with help from a surrounding support structure, to help disperse and dilute some of both the noise and odor produced by the facility during its operations. That improvement is currently awaiting the return of soil testing results around the facility to determine what type of footing will be best suited for the support structure. A 13-foot wall around the area featuring the smokestack in the photo at right is also scheduled to be constructed, with use of sound absorption panels, to help quiet some of the noise produced from the facility's drying fan. Standard photos by Joe Moses.

Pictured above is just a portion of the inner workings of the AVEKA Nutra Processing facility in north Waukon. The area pictured is part of a liquid filtration system and evaporator used to concentrate the filtrate before either packaging or a further drying processing step takes place, depending on the product. Submitted photo.

by Joe Moses

Since his recent addition of general manager duties at the AVEKA Nutra Processing plant in Waukon, John Anderson has been working to address concerns expressed by the public and the Waukon City Council regarding the production facility's noise and odor levels and to develop and implement plans being made to address these concerns. Anderson has experience working at four plants that use spray dryers, saying that each plant produces some noise and odor. He is currently dividing his time between the Cresco and Waukon AVEKA facilities serving as general manager at both locations.

Anderson explained that the client's needs and type of product vary, with the Waukon facility producing food grade materials, Kosher products, yeast products, pea protein, soy and products dried into powder best described as food additives and food preservatives. Anderson described AVEKA as being a toll or contract manufacturing company, in which specialized equipment and processes are used to make products to be used by other companies in their own products.

In the short time that Anderson has been involved with the Waukon facility, he has worked on several measures to decrease the noise and odor concerns that have been raised by the public and the Waukon City Council. Anderson explained that plans are being implemented to extend the facility's smokestack from the current 55-foot height to 85 feet using a 30-foot extension with a support tower structure around the smokestack.

AVEKA has received FAA approval for the smokestack extension, with that work beginning during a scheduled production downtime in September, allowing for the existing smokestack footing to be dug up and new concrete poured for the new footing for the tower support structure and smokestack extension. After allowing 30 days for the new concrete to cure, the extension will then be added to the existing smokestack. The facility has been awaiting results of a soil test before being able to move forward with the type of footing to be used for the new smokestack support structure.
Anderson advised that the smokestack extension will provide benefit by decreasing both noise and odor through better dilution and dispersion.

To address noise concerns, temporary sound panels had been installed around the facility's drying fan system, with Anderson recording a three-decibel decrease since that installation. Anderson said that three decibels may seem like a minor improvement, but this experiment shows potential for greater results using a solid permanent structure with sound insulation, which has led to plans for a 13-foot wall with a partial roof to better contain noise from the drying fan.

Pat Stone of Stone Construction in Waukon has been contracted to build a permanent wall and partial roof enclosure. Sound panels will be moved to the brick side of the building to aid in sound absorption and to decrease echoing. Repairs and modifications have also been made to the bag-house to lower the fan speed and in doing so, decreasing the noise level.

Anderson also discussed the company's economic impact as both an employer and as a purchaser of local products and services. With over $2 million a year in payroll with 45-50 employees, AVEKA has obviously had an impact on the local economy. Positions at the Waukon facility include office personnel, management, engineers, quality control, maintenance and production workers. Anderson indicated that the company chooses local businesses and services whenever possible and that clients are periodically in town, bringing additional revenue in retail, lodging and restaurants.

The company that is known today as AVEKA, was originally a division of 3M Corporation. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Willie Hendrickson managed the 3M powder processing pilot plant starting in 1986 and was later able to acquire the space and equipment in Woodbury, MN, establishing the company as AVEKA in 1994. As the company experienced growth, additional facilities were purchased establishing AVEKA Manufacturing in Fredericksburg, Cresco Food Technologies in Cresco, AVEKA CCE Technologies in Cottage Grove, MN, and in 2011, AVEKA Nutra Processing was founded in Waukon at the former Foremost Farms food facility. Former dairy processing plants have stainless steel equipment that can be utilized for a conversion to AVEKA's production needs, and that has influenced the company's expansions and choice of locations.

In thinking of growth of the Waukon facility, Anderson sees a lot of opportunity for expansion. On the corporate level, as projects are considered for different sites, Anderson said it does become a factor if there are issues and concerns with odor and noise levels related to the production of a particular type of product. Anderson said he is working with the city council to lower noise and odor levels and in doing so, attempting to not limit the type of work or clients able to be served by the Waukon facility. Anderson explained that he hopes to get beyond these issues, reducing noise and odor, which can be a limiting factor since there appear to be many opportunities to expand the Waukon facility.

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