From ammonia leaks to escaped chickens: Ramsay residents put up with Lilydale chicken plant for decades

Robin Tufts has seen it all since moving in across the street from the slaughterhouse in Calgary's southeast. He's glad it's finally going to leave his residential neighbourhood.

'It was kind of a crazy time," neighbour says of years living beside slaughterhouse

The neighbourhood of Ramsay will soon be saying goodbye to the Lilydale chicken plant in southeast Calgary. (Getty Images)

Robin Tufts has seen it all since moving in across the street from the Lilydale chicken plant in Calgary's southeast, from ammonia leaks to neighbours raising escaped chickens.

The City of Calgary announced Tuesday the plant in Ramsay will be moving to make way for Green Line LRT — welcome news for Tufts, who said the relocation is more than 20 years in the making.

"I moved into the neighbourhood in 1992 with the understanding that the plant would be moving in about five years. That's what we were told," Tufts told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Crying fowl

The plant has been an eyesore and a source of both foul and fowl odours for Ramsay residents, said Tufts. 

He has on a few occasions found chicken parts in his yard and said he's been frustrated by the constant noise of chickens and trucks coming and going at all hours.

Blood spilled on a southeast road leading to the Lilydale poultry plant upset the plant's neighbours in Ramsay back in 2010. (Todd Ford)

Tufts said one neighbour even started adopting birds that had made a jailbreak from the facility.

"I had a neighbour who actually would capture escaped chickens and raise them in his backyard," Tufts said. "You know, like, it was kind of a crazy time."

Dangerous leak

More than just a nuisance, Tufts said the Lilydale plant has also been a safety concern.

In 2009, Lilydale was fined $180,000 after ammonia was accidentally released from the processing plant.

The neighbourhood was forced into a partial evacuation, and nearby residents were forced from their homes or had to stay inside with windows and doors shut.

A group of residents frustrated with the plant even filed a lawsuit for $250,000 in damages back in 2011, citing decades of smell and noise issues.

Moving mystery

The city said it would take at least a year to finalize the negotiations with Lilydale, and the details of the deal wouldn't be made public until late 2018.

Tufts said the mystery of why the plant remained in Ramsay for so long kept residents scratching their heads. Some people even theorized grand conspiracies involving backroom deals.

"Sometimes conspiracy theorists thought that there must be payoffs to the city or something because we could never figure out what made it stay there," Tufts said. "But it just was economics. It's expensive to move a plant."

Even though the community will be trading a noisy chicken plant for a noisy LRT construction project, Tufts said the Green Line will be a welcome change.

"Again, the plant has been noisy and smelly and dusty all during its operation, so the construction phase will be a positive thing, even though it will cause some problems for us, for sure," Tufts said.

"But it will be better than having a chicken slaughterhouse across from my house."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener