Nation: The Mechanical Nose

Almost before the word environment was invented, Washington's Hopfenmaier rendering plant was a synonym for stench. Especially on warm afternoons, the conversion of animal carcasses to fertilizer and soap fills the Potomac air off Georgetown with such industrial halitosis that diplomats homeward bound from nearby Foggy Bottom inhale the gases and are tempted to ask for a transfer—anywhere.

The city's adoption last year of a new air-pollution code brought a fresh breeze of hope. Odors injurious to the public welfare were outlawed; the definition of welfare included reasonable enjoyment of life and property. To enforce the code, alas, the city acquired...