Ladysmith residents living downwind of foul sewage sludge piles at the public works yard gathered on Wednesday at the facility’s front gate demanding the town move operations to a more suitable location.
“Right before supper it gets so bad that the inside of our house smells like an outhouse,” said resident Amanda Schomer. “Even with the windows closed it still seeps in.”
Schomer and her daughter Emily joined 30 or so other frustrated neighbours who met face-to-face with city officials, including Mayor Aaron Stone, on a frigid but stink free morning at the outdoor facility.
The increase in the stench is attributed to the town’s switch to secondary sewage treatment at its wastewater plant earlier this year, which has effectively doubled the bio-solids being transported to the public works yard for composting.
Each week, two bins ranging in size of 15 to 30 cubic metres, amounting to 2,500 tonnes annually, are dumped in piles outside at the site – directly across the street from residential homes and only a few hundred metres from the primary school.
“Our biggest concern in the neighbourhood is that it’s going to be a permanent fixture here,” said resident Jared Wotherspoon, who’s lived two blocks away from the yard for 14 years.
“It’s gotten to the point where you can’t even send the kids into the backyard to play.”
Ladysmith suspended operations at the public works yard over the holidays to give local residents some relief from the odour but was forced to continue composting last week.
Mayor Stone called the ongoing problem “absolutely unacceptable” and vowed that city council was looking at alternatives.
“There’s absolutely no reasonable way that we would support continuing with the operation unless it was required,” he said. “Our goal is to have it moved as quickly as we possibly can.”
Ladysmith currently hasn’t acquired land to relocate the compost operations. Lot size, access, zoning for heavy industrial and a property away from residential homes are among the list of requirements.
Building a temporary enclosure around the compost piles was considered by the town in the past but the current city council would prefer to secure a new site.
Ladysmith has previously received $570,000 through the federal Gas Tax Fund to help with costs.
Another possibility is hauling all or some of the biosolids to an off-site location such as the VIU woodlot.
Stone said financing isn’t an issue and the town is actively looking for a partner that may be able to take the waste while they shop for properties.
“What we’re trying to find is an interim solution to get the odour issue resolved and a long-term solution where can have a suitable compositing facility,” he said