Soot from an Ottawa crematorium has been falling and blowing on nearby homes, residents say, making it impossible at times to open their windows or sit outside.
"We've all smelled it, we've all seen it, and it makes you ... feel sick," said Dawn Lynch, whose home is about 250 metres away from the crematorium. "It makes you feel like you're breathing in the remnants of a … dead body."
The crematorium is located at the Hope Cemetery on Bank Street, south of Leitrim Road, where Tamarack Homes and Tartan Land Corp. have been building the Findlay Creek Village development, which is expected to be completed in three months.
Lynch's neighbour, Mike Ball, said Tuesday that since a row of trees was cut down to make room for new housing about three years ago, the soot has had "free rein" to blow into his backyard.
"It's very thick smoke and it'll last maybe about five or 10 minutes and then that could happen two or three times a day — it depends," said Ball, who encourages his kids not to play in the yard during those periods. "It's not pleasant."
Ball showed CBC News a home video shot in 2008 demonstrating how bad the smoke can get. The images show an enormous black plume billowing from the crematorium's chimney, obscuring everything behind it.
Lynch, Ball and other residents of the Findlay Creek development said they have complained to the city and the developer for more than two years and nothing has changed.
Meets emissions regulations
Benoit Bariteau, director of cemeteries for the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, which runs Hope Crematorium, said the facility has a certificate of approval from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, is inspected by the ministry regularly, and adheres to strict emissions regulations for crematoriums. In addition, work has been going on in recent months to upgrade the crematorium with equipment that will further reduce emissions.
'My question is how the developer and the city has allowed that houses could be so near the line.' — Benoit Bariteau, Archdiocese of Ottawa
Bariteau added that he has received no complaints from residents for months.
There was a problem with one cremator at the cemetery about a year and half ago, he said, and suggested that was when Ball's video was taken. But that problem was solved and there is no issue now, he said.
"I don't want to push back and to say it's fun for people to have a crematorium in their backyard, but, you know, at the same time it's a reality and it's very, very controlled," he said Wednesday, adding that the cemetery wants to have a good relationship with its neighbours.
However, he said, he did not know whether the level of emissions allowed by the Ministry of the Environment could result in soot falling on nearby homes.
Bariteau said that when the cemetery opened in 1987, it was far from the city, which has since expanded. It was years later when the city approved the Findlay Creek development.
"My question is how the developer and the city has allowed that houses could be so near the line," Bariteau said.
Pierre Dufresne, a spokesman with Tartan Land Corp., said the developers have offered to cover the cost of moving the crematorium farther away from Findlay Creek, but even if that goes ahead, it won't happen for several years.
Local Coun. Steve Desroches said he thinks that's a fair offer and he wants to discuss it with church officials.
But Bariteau doesn't think relocation to another part of the narrow cemetery would help: "Everywhere you would move the crematorium, it would eventually be in the middle of the city."
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A satellite image shows the location of the cemetery. The Findlay Creek development can be seen to the south. (Google Maps)