The production of dog granules of the Brit brand by Vafo Praha is located in Chrášťany in Central Bohemia, less than two kilometers as the crow flies from Zličín and other districts of the western edge of the capital. Residents of Chrášťany, Jinočan, Zličín, Řeporyjí, Řep, Stodůlek and other municipalities and city districts have been complaining for years about the unbearable smell that arises during the production and especially the drying of dog food. The westerly wind regularly blows into densely populated neighborhoods of unpleasant odors, which make some people ill or have a headache. Production as an associated odor should more than double.
The business of the Czech businessman Pavel Bouška is flourishing. According to the media, the Brit granule brings in an annual withdrawal of over three billion crowns. In addition to several existing factories in the Czech Republic, Finland and Estonia, Vafo plans to start operations in Číčenice in South Bohemia and, above all, has expanded production in Chrášťany.
The Chrášťany factory has three production lines. The first of them has a daily capacity of 71.4 tons of granules per day, the backup line can produce 65 tons per day and the newly built third production line has a daily capacity of 115.2 tons of granules. The company received a second fine from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CEI) for exceeding production limits. The company lacks the so-called integrated permit from the Central Bohemian Region for the connection of a third line or simultaneous production in two lines.
Prague versus Central Bohemia
The company twice applied to the Central Bohemian Region for an integrated permit, but in both cases it has already crossed plans to dismiss the Institute of Planning and Development, which in this case represents the capital city of Prague. According to the information in the List, the Ministry of the Environment has now again ruled in favor of the municipality, and the Central Bohemian Region will deal with the application again.
Over the years, the dispute between a group of locals and a branch of a dog food company has reached the highest political level. Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, who was approached by the mayors of five city districts, it was the smell of a factory with the governor of the Central Bohemian Region. The Prime Minister, the Ministry of the Environment and the Office of the Public Defender of Rights commented on the case. People regularly complain to the CEI and in September they demonstrated against the expansion of production in front of the building of the Ministry of the Environment. However, all these efforts run into the fact that there is no law in the Czech Republic that would determine what is and what is not an annoying odor.
How odor is measured
Representatives of Vafo argue that the perception of odor is strongly individual. Formally, the determination of the odor limit is made possible by Annex No. 17 to Decree No. 415/2012 Coll. of the Air Protection Act. However, according to the Central Bohemian Region, which issues the permit, this law in its current form is inapplicable.
„Determination of the emission limit according to Annex No. 17 of Decree No. 415/2012 Coll. is technically unsolvable. Complete chemical analysis, where the number of individual organic substances in the air depending on about 170 granule recipes can reach the number in each row of the stove, and the possibility of assessing substances and its intensity together with the synergistic effect between substances does not allow setting emission limits for a particular chemical compound or element. “Said the regional authority on the requirement of Prague 17 to set precise limits.
According to the ombudswoman, however, the odor can be measured, only the appropriate legislation is lacking.
“Abroad, the so-called European odor unit is commonly used, which is defined as the amount of odorous substances which, under one cubic meter of neutral gas, normally give the test subjects the same impression as 123 grams of n-butanol dispersed in one cubic meter of neutral gas.” Jana Gregorová introduced the Ombudsman’s office. According to her, the best solution would be for the Ministry of the Environment to use a similar definition for setting a binding odor limit in the relevant decree.
The CEI is similarly defended, which people often criticize for inaction. In the current year of 2019 alone, the inspectorate received at least 185 odor complaints from the Vafo factory. By law, he must deal with every complaint.
“In the past, the CEI carried out a number of inspections on the basis of suggestions, including, among other things, several measurements of odorous substances on the exhalation from this facility. Due to the fact that the emission limit of odorous substances has not yet been set, the measurement results cannot be compared with a specific limit value, and thus it is not possible to prove the company’s mistake, “said Jana Jandová, a spokeswoman for the CEI List. The company received both mentioned fines for a total of 900 thousand crowns for exceeding the production limits, not for discharging emissions or odors.
Expensive air cleaning
Vafo uses advanced technologies to suppress odors, in which the company has invested tens of millions of crowns. With the help of water washers and air purifiers based on the so-called cold plasma, it guarantees a 92% reduction in the odor generated during the production and drying of the granules. In addition, production is limited by the amount of measurable emissions, such as carbon oxides and nitrogen.
The actual odor level around the factory often changes radically, with people complaining the most during the summer. Due to the smell, a Facebook group and an application were created in the summer of 2018, in which people write down the place and the smell. After this year’s demonstration in September, the number of complaints seems to have decreased. Martin Šámal, Marketing Director of Vafo Prague, attributes this to the colder weather and the more precise “tuning” of the air cleaning machines.
The company is not planning further investments in air purification technologies. The production of dog food is simply associated with a certain odor trace, which even the most modern methods can not eliminate 100%. The factory began production in 1994, but since then conditions on the western edge of the capital have changed, which the management seems to be aware of. “Given the existing buildings at the time and the agricultural nature of the original village of Chrášťany, where, among other things, the agricultural cooperative operated, this is an ideal location,” says Vafo Praha in an official statement.