Coast Environmental wants to expand compost facility in Chemainus

Stench from composting in Chemainus’ industrial park has North Cowichan council sniffing at bylaw changes to plug future odour problems.

Stench from composting in Chemainus’ industrial park has council sniffing at bylaw changes to plug future odour problems, North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure says.

His comments came in the wake of a lengthy Chemainus Legion meeting hosted by Coast Environmental Inc., which wants to expand its soil-composting operation to accept Cowichan’s food waste in the industrial park.

“We don’t have a control mechanism in place and we’ve asked staff to bring forward a bylaw to take composting out of the heavy-industrial zone,” Lefebure said.

“That way, anyone coming to us in future has to get agreement from us before an operation can start up, so we’d be in control.”

The meeting attracted some 40 citizens, some of whom marched during a September anti-odour protest.

North Cowichan shares jurisdiction of the composting operation with the CVRD.

“The CVRD is responsible for solid wastes (bio-solids) and his expansion falls under that,” the mayor said.

“Folks at the meeting were quite angry.

“They felt the permit should not be granted for expansion until they prove they can operate without being an extreme nuisance to neighbours and neighbouring business.

“They’re operating legally right now, and unfortunately their operation is not being managed well in terms of odour it produces.

“If the operation is run properly, there’s anticipation of some odour but not to the extent we have now.”

Cam Drew of nearby Thermo-Proof Windows was on a list of locals who expressed disgust about the reek wafting from Coast’s operations.

Drew wanted Coast to snuff its smell before its expansion plans are mulled by council and the CVRD.

“He’s saying ‘Let me expand.’ We’re saying ‘No, take care of the odours first.’”

Drew didn’t believe Coast is acting properly under odour provisions of its current permit.

And Thermo-Proof’s municipal property taxes have risen while its property values have dropped due to the stench, Drew said.

Coast’s Dan Lazaro is acting on a roster of audit recommendations found in regional consultant John Paul’s $3,000 November report to reduce odour from the soil operation.

Lazaro said Coast has spent about $250,000 so far on improvements to reduce odor at his composting place.

“We’ve expanded our (covered) mixed and receive area by half to stock more material without opening the doors,” he told the News Leader Pictorial.

“We now have enough wood waste for two weeks.”

A CVRD expansion would mean boosting his payroll to about eight full-timers from the curent four, he said.

“We run a showpiece facility.”

But to Lefebure and others, Coast’s composting smells are small beside the stench from a liquid-septage truck-transfer station — affiliated with Coast — near its soil operation.

Council and the CVRD have no authority concerning the liquid-waste place — and it’s unclear who does.

“There is no actual legislated authority over the transfer of those septage fluids,” said Lefebure, “but Lazaro talked about actions he’s taking to mitigate the smell from the septage transfer.

“He says he’s made improvements to that. At the meeting, there was general agreement the odour is related to the (soil) composting as well.”

Lazaro cited truck-transfer station upgrades including a gravity-upload platform, bio-filter connections for rigs, and more.

And that stinky stuff don’t include just septic-tank offal, either, he said.

“Non-septic can be between 25 and 50 per cent, everything from dairy waste and restaurant grease, to winery and fish- farm wate.”

“I’ve smelled it, and it can get very bad,” noted Lefebure.

Folks can submit comments about the stench and composting concerns to the Cowichan Valley Regional District by council by March 1.