Karen Dieckmann said she’s sick and tired of the odours that she and her family have to deal with at their home on Holland Avenue in Cobble Hill.
Dieckmann said she has noticed the smells that she and her neighbours are sure are coming from the nearby Fisher Road Recycling facility ever since she moved into the area five years ago, but it has gotten really bad since April.
“The smell is a combination of sickly sweet rotting meat, rotting vegetables and combination of other odours, and it’s just awful,” she said.
“I’m not much of a complainer, but when I can’t open my windows and doors on nice spring days, it’s not okay. Many of my neighbours are also talking and complaining about this as well.”
Dieckmann said she called FRR to complain, but she never heard back from the company after she left her name, phone number and nature of her complaint with the front-desk attendant.
She said many of her neighbours have filled out complaint forms at the facility, and at the Cowichan Valley Regional District in whose jurisdiction the facility operates in, but they haven’t received any responses either.
“About 10 years ago, when I lived in Cowichan Bay, representatives from FRR held an open house there and said there would be no odours coming from their facility and it would be a benefit to the community,” Dieckmann said.
“I used to take my yard waste there, but I won’t anymore. If they can’t compost properly, then they shouldn’t be allowed to do it. I compost in my backyard but there’s no stink because I do it properly. They need to fix their process and the CVRD should take some responsibility for this as well.”
There’s a growing number of complaints from the neighbours about the odours emanating from FRR.
In a letter to the Citizen, Ed Aiken said if he was rich, he would sue FRR, the CVRD and the province for loss of enjoyment of life.
“I am sure many others would join in the suit and it would be a class action and then, maybe, finally, we could rid ourselves of this blight on our community,” he said.
“Even downtown Cobble Hill is not immune to the stench. This is just so ridiculous. The CVRD even promotes the Fisher Road dump where one can bring their refuse to our community. Thanks to those people for allowing them to continue to pollute the once fresh air we used to enjoy.”
Mike Wilson, the director for Cobble Hill on the CVRD’s board, said that he has received many complaints and concerns about the the smells coming from FRR and been working diligently on the issue for some time.
“I am working practically every day on this problem, but it is not possible for me to say more than that [at this time] except that without the help of the community, I am fighting an uphill battle,” he said.
Aaron Stone, chairman of the CVRD, said the issue is a constant source of frustration for him and the district.
He said enforcement is sometimes difficult because the odours dissipate by the time staff get there to investigate complaints, and it’s hard to nail down exactly where they are coming from.
Stone said the recycling centre has been in place long before his time on the board and, while it’s easy to say now that it’s not a proper location for such a facility, it’s allowed to operate there as long as it complies with the zoning.
He said CVRD staff do their best to deal with the odour complaints about the recycling facility, and have consistently engaged with its owners to have them deal with it, but it’s mainly a regulatory matter that comes under the jurisdiction of the province’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“We have limited authority to deal with the issue, but staff continue to engage with the owners and they have indicated that they are willing to continue work to deal with it,” he said.
“Hopefully they can get a handle on it, but it would be irresponsible for me to say that it will be dealt with within the next six weeks or even six months. It’s a difficult file and we’ll continue to focus on it. Work continues behind the scenes as well, but I can’t discuss that at this time and, hopefully, a long-term fix can be found.”
FRR had stated in the past that it remains committed to addressing odours originating from the facility and, in 2019, the facility installed an air curtain for its main door and replaced the cover of its composting building in an effort to reduce the odours.
Manager Spencer Atkinson said the FRR has a permit from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and a recycler licence from the CVRD to operate.
“Both regulators have strict monitoring and reporting requirements, which I follow, and there is a formal complaint process that is part of the CVRD recyclers licence requirement, which I follow,” he said. “Both the permit and the licence have significant operating requirements to minimize odours, and these requirements are also followed. Both regulators require us to follow our permit and licence and can shut down our facility if licensing requirements are not met, but this has never occurred.”
Comments from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy on the issue were not received by press time.