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'The gloves are off': Whitbourne mayor slams revised composting facility plan

But project's planners say mayor is 'misinforming the public'

Hilda Whelan

Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan vows to fight the proposal for a composting facility and wants it moved further away from the town. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

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The revised proposal for a facility near Whitbourne that would compost carcasses, manure and fish offal isn't quelling criticism from residents and the town's mayor.

"We are as upset about that one as the original simply because it's so close to our town," says Mayor Hilda Whelan.

"This will be a disaster."

Whitbourne Welcomes You Sign

Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan says she wants the proposed facility to moved to another location. (Town of Whitbourne/Facebook)

Metro Environmental Services Inc. wants to build an industrial composting facility to process waste from slaughterhouses and fish plants, to be located at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Argentia Access Road, Route 100.

'You got a better chance to get this in the centre of St. John's.' - Whitbourne Mayore Hilda Whelan

Whelan said the smell is one of her many concerns, and said the site is two kilometres away from the town's business area.

"[There will be] flies all over the restaurants and everything. It don't make sense to [try] something like this, especially in a place where all the tourists are coming off the boats," she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"If they want to do this, there is vast island from here to Port aux Basques. Find a place far out where you're not going to bother nobody."

No fire response?

Whelan said the proposal is still listing the fire departments in Whitbourne and Norman's Cove in the revised proposal, despite repeated warnings that firefighters will not respond to any incidents at the facility.

A compost blaze is different than a regular fire, she said, and could prove especially dangerous.

Whitbourne Fire

Mayor Hilda Whelan doesn't want Whitebourne Fire Department resources diverted to the proposed composting facility in case of an emergency. (Town of Whitbourne/Facebook)

"You got to remember too, these are volunteer men … They're there to protect our town and surrounding communities if needed. They're not to go in there and ruin everything they've got, their equipment."

​Planners: mayor is 'misinforming the public'

But as vehement as Whelan is in her opposition, the project's proponents share the same vigour in their support of it. 

"This facility will be the best facility in all of Canada and probably parts of Europe," said Terrence Penney, owner of Environmental Metro Services Inc., who noted the technology is common in other places.

Penney said the facility would be "100 per cent indoors" and would be almost four kilometres from the town's boundary.

terrence-penney-samson

Terrence Penney, owner of Metro Environmental Services, says there will be no odour from the composting facility. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

"You can't do anything in Newfoundland without a battle … What the problem is, people don't understand the environment."

Hubert Alacoque of Innovative Development and Design Engineers Ltd. is the lead engineer for the project. 

"[Mayor] Hilda Whelan is misinforming the public," he told CBC News. 

"The smell can be substantially controlled by the composting process. In current established operation, they won't smell any odours, not even when they drive by on the Argentia Access Road."

Alacoque dismissed Whelan's warnings about the dangers of a fire, noting composting facilities "very rarely encountered spontaneous combustion."

Chicken

The facility will composte waste that consists of 'mink farm offal/carcasses, spent hens and dead birds, poultry feathers' among other livestock, according to the proposal. (CBC)

"We are no different, from a firefighting or fire suppression point of view, than a farm next door or in the area," Alacoque said, adding it's comparable in that regard to a mine or a sawmill.

"Eventually the finished compost will have to have, and has, a sufficient humidity content that it's not flammable."

"People are afraid and against it, but yet, in Newfoundland we're 50 years behind with these things … The existence of [an] industrial composting facility is fabulous for the province, for the Avalon region."

The fight is on

Whelan said she plans to sit down with Environment Minister Eddie Joyce, but vows to fight on — even if the proposal gets approved in the environmental review stage, where it currently is.

"The gloves are off  … You got a better chance to get this in the centre of St. John's than you have that close to Whitbourne."

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