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North Cowichan raising stink over foul odours

Smell from Chemainus facility an issue for years
Odours have been an issue around the Coast Environmental’s facility in Chemainus for years. (File photo)

A letter will be sent to the province from the Municipality of North Cowichan expressing concerns with ongoing odour issues around a waste and compost treatment facility in Chemainus.

The decision to send the letter came after Mayor Jon Lefebure gave a verbal report to council on Jan. 17 on the odours that many believe come from Coast Environmental, which is located in the Chemainus Industrial Park.

The company, which has been in operation for more than five years, deals mostly with waste water, soil treatment, recycling and composting.

There have been complaints about the odours in the area around the facility for years, but Lefebure said work to enclose much of the operation and add odour filters seems to have resulted in fewer complaints.

But the number of complaints dramatically increased in the last few months of 2017, prompting the municipality to investigate.

The facility is located in North Cowichan, but jurisdiction for its operations is shared among a number of authorities.

“I took a tour of the site and company officials indicated that nothing was done differently from before,” Lefebure said.

“New regulations are being developed by the province and there’s hope that the odour issues may be dealt with in them.”

While Coast Environmental’s operation is located in North Cowichan, which issues it annual business licences to operate, the Cowichan Valley Regional District is responsible for issuing its recycler licence and the Ministry of Environment issues the permit for the facility to compost soil.

In addition, all facilities that process more than 5,000 tonnes of compost per year are now required to obtain an Organic Matter Recycling Regulation permit from the Ministry of Environment.

Coast Environmental’s OMPR permit application is currently being reviewed by the ministry.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen said the surrounding businesses have had to endure the odours for years.

“It’s debilitating to those who work at these businesses, and it’s bad for business,” she said.

“We have a lot more obligation than to just walk away from this issue. We’ve become part of the problem, not the solution.”

Lefebure said North Cowichan has little authority to do much about the odours and is working with the CVRD to try and deal with the issue, although he acknowledged that the regional district is also limited as to what actions it can take.

“There is no odour control component to Coast Environmental’s operations,” he said.

“The facility is operating legally with the proper permits. The CVRD is already working on the odour issue and we’re working with them on it. But we could send a letter to the province expressing our concerns and that we hope the odour issues will be dealt with in the new regulations the ministry is developing.”

Coun. Al Siebring said while North Cowichan has little authority to deal with the odours, it is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed so he supports sending the letter.

“I’m sorry this is taking longer than some would like,” he said.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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