Incentives urged to solve odour problem near school

The District 1 Education Council is asking the city of Moncton and the provincial government to offer financial incentives to some industrial businesses around an elementary school to encourage them to relocate.

École Champlain is located near several industrial businesses in Moncton

The District 1 Education Council is asking the city of Moncton and the provincial government to offer financial incentives to some industrial businesses to relocate away from an elementary school.

Parents, teachers and school board members are meeting on Monday to discuss what options are available to deal with air qualty concerns at a Moncton elementary school.

Parents and school officials have been complaining about an odour problem at École Champlain for several years. But provincial government tests have shown the air around the kindergarten-to-Grade 5 school is safe.

At a meeting on Monday, the local education council, district officials and the city discussed ways to deal with the industrial smell that wafts into classrooms at École Champlain.

Ernest Thibodeau, the chairperson for the District 1 Education Council, said the problem will only be solved if everyone co-operates.

"We know that they have grandfather rights and we cannot force them to move. But with the City of Moncton and the government of New Brunswick, maybe we could find some incentives to encourage them to move elsewhere," he said.

The district education council chairperson said some land and cash might help spur on the co-operation.

"If we cannot move those industries, we will eventually have to close that school and move the school elsewhere. And to build a school of that size, it would cost the government of New Brunswick about $35 million," he said.

Ernest Thibodeau, chairman of the District 1 Education Council, said the Ecole Champlain odour controversy will only be solved if all sides co-operate. (CBC)

The school was built in 1969 when only the asphalt plant, which is roughly 150 metres away, was in the area. There are now dozens of industrial companies that have located near the school.

Parents and teachers say that, on certain days, the smells from the nearby industrial businesses are overwhelming.

Thibodeau said he realizes that some businesses were in the area before the school, so that is why he believes a system of incentives may help end the odour problem.

Both the provincial government and some of the local businesses say they're willing to continue to work with the district to come up with solutions.

But the education council chairperson said it’s a situation that must be resolved soon because it is taking a toll on staff.

"We are starting to get requests from teachers who want to be transferred to other schools. We're starting to get requests from parents who want to put their kids in other schools," Thibodeau said.

A Department of Education official said in an e-mailed statement the provincial government has made considerable efforts in recent years to ensure safe and healthy schools.

"This situation is also taken seriously and that’s why the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will continue to discuss and work closely with any other required departments that would need to be involved, the city, the DEC, the school and the parents in finding long term solutions," said Meg Cumby, a communications official with the education department.