From: Duncan Adams, The Roanoke Times
Published June 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Roanoke's Maple Leaf Bakery To Take Clean Air Measures

Many people savor the aroma of baking bread, but a bread-baking factory can pollute the air.

In early April, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ordered Maple Leaf Bakery in Roanoke to pay a fine of $2,640 for exceeding a permitted limit on its emissions of ethyl alcohol. Maple Leaf Bakery paid the fine and agreed to take measures to reduce such emissions.

Classified as a "volatile organic compound," ethyl alcohol can contribute to the production of ozone. And ground-level ozone, a primary component of urban smog, can be a problem in the Roanoke Valley.

Al Sautner is vice president of operations in Roanoke for Maple Leaf Bakery, whose 210,000-square-foot production plant is in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology. Sautner said Maple Leaf Bakery, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Maple Leaf Foods, intends to install either a catalytic oxidizer or regenerative thermal oxidizer to reduce emissions of VOCs.

"Because we're producing so much bread, we're at the point right now where it's the right thing to do for the environment," he said.

Sautner said Maple Leaf Bakery's Roanoke plant, after several expansions, now produces about 2 million loaves of bread a week. The bread is partially baked and then frozen for shipment to customers. The plant employs about 300 people, he said, including about 20 temporary workers.

Maple Leaf launched production in Roanoke in early 1998.

Brewers use yeast and so do bakers. When bread is baked and a fermentation-producing agent such as yeast raises the dough, ethyl alcohol evaporates. When you bake a lot of bread, as commercial bakers do, a lot of ethyl alcohol evaporates.

Ozone is formed by the reaction of VOCs and nitrogen oxide in the presence of heat and sunlight. Ground-level ozone forms in the atmosphere year-round, but most readily during hot summer weather.

Steven Dietrich, regional director for DEQ's west central regional office, said Maple Leaf's use of natural gas also results in emissions of nitrogen oxide. He said DEQ and Maple Leaf are working together to balance expanded production with limits on total emissions.

"Communication is key," he said.

Sautner said he believes Maple Leaf has a good relationship with the DEQ.

In 2002, Roanoke, Salem, Vinton, Roanoke County and Botetourt County signed an early action compact with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and promised to work voluntarily to bring the valley's occasionally troublesome ozone levels into compliance with federal clean air standards by 2007.

Failure to meet those ozone standards could result in a "traditional non-attainment" designation that could lead to EPA-mandated sanctions and strict regulation of new and expanded businesses.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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