Chemainus composting operation gets CVRD’s conditional approval to expand

Coast Environmental owners mull two regional options to snuff stink, while MLA tackles septage-trasnfer station odour laws.

Chemainiacs protest the stench coming from Coast Environmental's composting plant and nearby septage-transfer facility last October.

Chemainiacs protest the stench coming from Coast Environmental's composting plant and nearby septage-transfer facility last October.

A Chemainus industrial-park composting operation has been given conditional approval to expand its operation, the region’s environmental manager says.

Bob McDonald said owners of Coast Environmental Ltd. received two options May 15 from the Cowichan regional board about reducing odours from its composting plant, while its neighbouring septage-transfer station remains unregulated.

McDonald was aware some Chemainiacs wanted permission for Coast to expand its composting plant to be contingent on the firm reducing smell from the offending septage-transfer facility.

But regional directors and the province are legally stymied without regulations governing odors from septage-transfer stations, he explained.

“Our lawyer advised us along those lines,” McDonald said of potential legal action from Coast if the firm were held ransom for reducing septage stink, in return for composting-plant expansion approval.

“Its an awkward thing. Septage is not regulated by anyone — it’s nuisance odours.”

Nuisance enough that residents marched in protest about the stench in the fall.

Nuisance enough that residents marched in protest about the stench in the fall and participated in vocal meetings public meetings. Cam Drew of nearby ThermoProof Windows was one of those concerned.

“Unfortunately,the CVRD felt it had no other option but to allow expansion,” said.

“The stench happens less and less, but when it does, it’s unbearable.”

MLA Doug Routley said he aims to march into the legislature Monday and ask Environment Ministry Terry Lake to add odour issues to provincial legislation to end legal-limbo situations such as Chemainus’ composting-septage snafu.

And Routley explained there’s some “grandfathering” precedence that could affect Coast’s septage-transfer operation now if B.C.’s regulations are changed.

“It requires an answer,” he said of Lake. “(Noxious odour) is an issue of health, and the right to enjoy your space.

“It would be up to Coast to show they can’t comply without being driven out of business.”

Coast’s Dan Lazaro was unavailable for comment by deadline.

North Cowichan council will soon yank septage- and commercial-composting operations from its zoning bylaws, pending provincial approval, to ban many odiferous occupants in future.

“It would be a stop-gap measure for now while we rewrite our zoning bylaws,” said Councillor Al Siebring.

“We may create a special composting zone for operations away from residences, and we’d plop ‘em in there — it’s all about location.”

Meanwhile, McDonald noted Coast has boosted biofiltration by four times on the septage station.

An odour audit by biologist John Paul for the Cowichan Valley Regional District explored smell from Coast’s composting plant that’s about half inside a building.

Paul’s recommendations have been adopted, McDonald said.

Now Coast’s must chose between two expansion options for its soil composting operation.

One choice is a phased expansion by half, by taking new materials — such as kitchen and yard wastes — that would join brewery, fish, septage and dairy wastes currently composted with wood wastes.

That would mean an operation footprint that’s 50% bigger, McDonald said.

No new material would be allowed until August. The phase-in would stretch into January.

Option two sees Coast expand its operation now, but build a larger building — with biofilters — and move all of its operation indoors to control odours, McDonald said.

Drew picked option two.

“A completely enclosed compost operation is probably the best.

“I’d have liked to see Coast prove itself — give it a year so we don’t have to talk to our staff and neighbours about why it’s a heavy-odour day.”

McDonald expected Coast’s decision, and revised plan, in the next two weeks, with Coast’s revised plans.”