For nearly a decade, a smell of rot has periodically wafted through the Shelagh Lam neighborhood in northwest Edmonton.
The stench, which she and her family members describe as “foul-smelling” and “a combination of cannabis and urine”, is so intense that she once found herself almost in tears while working at home during the pandemic.
Some days, the smell prevents her children from playing in the garden and they meet her on the way to school.
“When we get on the bus in the morning, sometimes the smell gets trapped,” said her 11-year-old son Kai.
Lam lives in the Trumpeter neighborhood in northwest Edmonton. Many residents of the Big Lake area have long suspected that the smell comes from piles of organic material from Cleanit Greenit Composting System, a company that has been turning organic waste into compost since the 1990s. The composting facility is in an industrial area, south of the Yellowhead Trail and just west of the Anthony Henday Drive.
After years of reporting odor complaints, residents learned last year that the City of Edmonton was seeking a court order to fix the problem and that the province was deregistering Cleanit Greenit, effective March 30. June 2022.
Lam said she stopped complaining officially this year because she believed the community’s work was done and they would put up with the smell until the composter closed.
June 30 passed, but the smell remained, leaving residents frustrated and worried about the future of the facility.
Composter still in operation
According to Carla Jones, spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Parks, about a week before the cancellation date, Cleanit Greenit filed an application with the Court of Queen’s Bench challenging the government’s registration decision.
She said a judicial review hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Cleanit Greenit has also filed a request for a stay of the decision, which will be heard on August 4.
The court granted an interim stay of deregistration, allowing the company to operate in the meantime.
The City of Edmonton and the province oppose the request for a stay.
“We understand Cleanit Greenit will be requesting a further extension of stay,” said City of Edmonton spokesperson Chrystal Coleman.
She said the City plans to come to court and seek permission to intervene in the proceedings.
“We are going to close our establishment”, says the CEO
CEO Kirstin Castro-Wunsch said in an email that the company implemented “airdar technology,” which reduced odor complaints last year.
“Nevertheless, we will be closing our facility despite it being absolutely necessary to help the environment,” she told CBC News.
“We’re just asking the court for time so customers don’t have to go to the landfill and staff can be assigned to other jobs and things can be shut down properly.”
Castro-Wunsch said there was a shortage of composting facilities in the Edmonton area and some of its customers were bringing organics to the landfill.
Last year, the company announced that it had collected more than 2,200 signatures from on line and door-to-door petitions opposing the closure of the establishment.
A petition from residents concerned about odors attracted a similar number of signatures.
Cleanit Greenit’s petition says the company is asking to remain open so it “can fund a move to a new location, which shouldn’t take more than three years.”
The petition also states that the province’s order prevents the company from obtaining funding and that the odors in the west come from several sources, including other businesses, incomplete sewers, recycling plants, manufacturing. pet food, oil and gas wells, road construction and a sewage lift. station.
Proposed rural settlement
Last year, another company Kirstin Castro-Wunsch is involved with, Carbon Capture Farm Inc., held engagement sessions with Leduc County residents about a proposed composting facility near town. of Thorsby.
During a presentation, a recording of which was posted on YouTubecompany representatives said the risk of bad odors would be extremely low.
“It would be really nice if we could redesign this Edmonton site to have more acres, but that’s just the one thing that’s not possible there,” Castro-Wunsch said during the session. of questions and answers.
According to Leduc County, the project did not proceed because the landowner withdrew consent last year for the company to apply for a development permit.
Residents hope for closure
The city’s original request for the court order includes 47 affidavits from affected residents. Many of them said they were woken up in the night by the smell. One resident said he made 400 calls about the smell between January 2019 and August 21, 2020. Another compared the smell to a mountain of rotting dirty diapers that were baked in the sun and combined with a chemical compound.
Tanner Wilson, who lives in the Hawks Ridge neighborhood of Edmonton, said he was disappointed the smell returned after June 30.
He said he and his wife closed all their windows to keep the smell out of the house, even on hot summer days.
Wilson said he developed headaches, watery eyes and a sore throat when the smell was strong – symptoms mentioned by other residents in affidavits.
A 2018 document on composting odors According to the British Columbia Center for Disease Control’s National Collaborating Center for Environmental Health, microbial volatile organic compounds (VOCs) near composting facilities “are below levels thought to cause symptoms of poisoning or sensory irritation,” but there may be interactions between different types of VOCs and non-odorous pollutants that contribute to health symptoms.
“It is the psychosocial aspects of olfactory discomfort that may impact symptomatic complaints,” the paper states.
Wilson and Lam said they see the value in composting, but want the western facility to close.
“I hope the three entities can work together to find a better, more sustainable place for this to happen,” said Lam, who is also concerned about the company’s environmental track record.
In its news release announcing the cancellation of registration last year, the province said that following detailed inspections of the composting facility, it had identified “continuing and persistent issues with the air, ground and water”.
The company applied for approval
According to the province, Cleanit Greenit applied for approval to operate the composting facility in west Edmonton in June.
Cleanit Greenit operated under a registration, not an endorsement. The distinction refers to the amount of feedstock (manure or plant matter) a facility collects per year and the amount of anticipated environmental impact.
Approvals are required for facilities that accept more than 20,000 tonnes per year, while registrations are required for those that accept up to that amount.
Some residents are concerned about the request for approval, but Castro-Wunsch said the court will decide on a closing date.
She said the company had “learned a lot” and was looking for partners for future projects.