There’s an intermittent stink in Sechelt and Salish Soils is taking the blame — for some of it.
While Sechelt is host to the occasional foul odour from the Ebbtide sewage treatment plant or the biosolids being used to grow poplar trees on reclaimed land at Lehigh, the odour coming from Salish Soils is different.
“You can smell the ammonia and you can smell that aerosol smell. It’s a weird smell. And then of course, when they use the fish, you can really smell the fish too. It’s just a big stinky mess,” said William Baturin, who lives with his family just down the street from Salish Soils.
He first took issue with the smell when the fish and green waste composting facility started two years ago.
“It was part of the process of aerobic decomposition and it was stinky. Everybody complained at first, but nothing ever came of that,” Baturin said.
He noted the inconsistency of the smell initially kept him from pushing for change, but over the years he feels the smell has become more troublesome.
“It’s a very offensive odour, and to be fair, that is usually what most lawsuits are about is the loss of quality of life,” he said.
A recent instance of the smell wafting into his neighbourhood was the last straw for Baturin.
“My daughter had her 14th birthday party the other night and we were cutting the cake. The doors were open, and all of a sudden this horrible smell comes in. We had to close all the doors, and we had two dozen 14-year-old girls in the house,” Baturin said.
“When the smell comes through, you have to close all your windows. You can’t even leave a little gap open in a window because it seeps in through.”
Aaron Joe, CEO of Salish Soils, said Baturin and his wife are welcome to come tour his business and talk with him about their concerns, but that they haven’t done so yet. Baturin maintains his family has been trying to get answers about the smell and possible health risks for months, but they have been getting the run-around.
Salish Soils is on Sechelt Indian Band lands on Black Bear Road and the composting facility uses a Gore cover system that Salish Soils director Phil Ragan said keeps 97 per cent of the odour inside.
Basically, piles of the compost, which is made up of discarded fish and green waste from around the Coast, get placed in long rows and covered with the fabric to speed up the process.
“By creating an ideal environment under a blanket similar to a Gore-Tex jacket, Salish Soils’ composting process creates ideal conditions to grow massive microbial colonies that consume the waste to create nitrogen-rich compost in under 60 days,” Ragan said.
The smell comes when the covers are off, when the fish is delivered and when the pile of chipped wood waste used in the process gets stirred up.
Joe is well aware of the unwanted smells and said he’s working to remedy it.
Currently Salish Soils is levelling the ground to build an 1,800 square metre (20,000 square foot) building to do all its mixing of compost in.
“We want to own what we’re doing here. I don’t want to be passing that off. It’s important for us as a company to know what does smell and how we can make it better,” Joe said.
“I don’t want to get into this ‘well, we only make a stink one day a month’ and everybody goes ‘well, that’s BS’. I don’t want that. I want to be very clear that, yes, we get fish in sometimes once every three weeks, sometimes once a month, and when we do get fish, that day it is very odourous and that’s what we’re remedying with the building. The steps we are taking today are to remedy the issue of the odour.”
He said Salish Soils has been in a pilot project until now, and the business needed to prove it could stay afloat before money for a building could be found.
“We had to be able to prove to our financier and show them that we could make a value-added product for them to finance us. We recently have signed off on our financing about five weeks ago to be able to do our expansion to remedy the odour.”
He expects the building to be complete and all stinky operations moved inside by January 1, 2013.
“There are other ways we’re looking at doing this, too,” Joe noted.
“The wood waste left unground — without being ground up — doesn’t smell. So maybe what we could do is grind it as we need it. We grind enough for the month and that’s all we grind. There’s always a better way of looking at it. How can we be better? We’re open to meetings like this.”
The Ministry of Environment regulates Salish Soils. The company said they are exceeding standards set out in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation.
“When it goes under that cover at 70 degrees Celsius, that pasteurizes. It actually sterilizes everything, and under the regulations, you only have to go over 50 degrees Celsius for three days. We’re maintaining 60 to 70 degrees and higher for four weeks. So the fact is that absolutely everything that is a problem basically is sterilized,” Ragan said.
If anyone in the community has concerns about smells coming from Salish Soils, Joe invites them to come to the site as soon as they notice the odour.
“We’ll have a form for them and it will basically have a breakdown of a series of questions about what you’re smelling, what day. And part of our protocol is to even get into wind directions and things like that so we can match that up,” Joe said.
“Again, we’re a new company, and all this information that we compile is going to be used for the betterment of our company.”