Residents of Winnipeg's River Heights neighbourhood are demanding to know why eight massive metal silos have been built in the middle of their community.

The silos, which stand about five storeys high, were erected late last week next to the BNSF Railway line on Lindsay Street and Mathers Avenue, in the heart of River Heights.

"Eight humongous, larger-than-life, ugly-as-sin industrial silos in the heart of a residential community," said resident Judy Plotkin.

"I just couldn't believe it. It's like they went up overnight. I had no notice," added Debra Black, Plotkin's neighbour.

Many residents, and even the city councillor for River Heights, don't know for sure what the silos are doing in the neighbourhood.

'They're horrific,' councillor says

Coun. John Orlikow said he was told the metal cylinders may be part of a transfer station the BNSF Railway Company is building.

The silos are on land owned by the company, and as such it does not need the city's permission since it's considered federal land under the Transportation Act.

But Orlikow said he has asked city lawyers to look into the matter.

"They're horrific. Oh, they just don't belong there. A transfer station doesn't belong there," he said.

"This is the middle of a residential area. This kind of industrial activity does not belong in the neighbourhood whatsoever. No, I want to stop it."

Silos storing sea water

A spokesperson for the railway told CBC News on Monday that it has leased the land to Fort Distributors.

Fort Distributors spokesman Grant Jehle said the silos are storing concentrated sea water that is used to keep dust down on gravel roads.

Jehle said his company leases land from the BNSF Railway, which told him to put the tanks there, and he didn't think there would be any issues.

He added that the railway company told him it did not think putting the tanks there would pose any problems.

"We chose … the nicest-looking tanks that we have. They're not dented, they're not banged up," Jehle told CBC News.

"We didn't scatter them throughout the yard. We've kept them as compact as we can."

'It's a tough call'

Jehle said from what he understands, the land is zoned as industrial land, and the residential neighbourhood has grown around it.

"It's a tough call. I mean, we were told that this is where we have to offload our product," he said.

"This is the only place in Winnipeg that we can offload our product because, again, it comes up with one rail line."

However, the BNSF spokesperson said it's up to Fort Distributors and not the railway to get any permit from the city necessary to erect the silos.

Meanwhile, Black and Plotkin said they are worried the silos may pose safety hazards, as well as lower property values in River Heights.

"We are entitled to be notified of any kind of structure that's going to influence our safety, and our health, and the look of the neighbourhood. This is an outrage," Black said.

"They just said, 'Well, we don't live here, we don't care, we didn't pay $350,000 for our home.'"