British Columbia

Foul odour returns to Abbotsford elementary school

A King Elementary School parent in Abbotsford is again complaining about a powerful odour at the school, which wafts across the street from a poultry farm.

'It's a smell like I've never experienced, and I've been around a lot of different farms my entire life'

Parents, students, teachers and staff at King Traditional School in Abbotsford have complained for more than two years about a foul odour. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

A powerful odour wafting across the road from a poultry farm is again creating problems at King Traditional Elementary in Abbotsford.

The stench had improved since the issue came up about a year ago, according to Shannon Gaudette, a parent at the school, but since about mid-September, it's been back.

"It's a smell like I've never experienced, and I've been around a lot of different farms my entire life," said Gaudette. "At first, parents thought that it was rotting carcasses — that's how putrid and horrible the smell was."

She said people at the school have become nauseous, had headaches, and had respiratory issues due to the odour.

The company, 93 Land Company, declined an interview request from CBC News, but said in a statement it uses the property as a poultry farm and poultry litter storage facility.

Gaudette said it's the manure that's creating the foul smell — which she describes as 'toxic' — as it's being stored under an open-air canopy that releases fumes.

'Students are there all day'

She said her daughter complains that her head and stomach hurt when she's exposed to the odour.

"I feel bad, because she loves that school," said Gaudette. "You're leaving your children, and that's what a lot of the parents say — we feel sick enough when we go there, just dropping them off and doing some volunteer time.

"But the students are there all day every day inhaling that stuff."

Administrators at the school had carbon filters installed in 2017 to curtail the stench, but according to Gaudette, it's not enough.

Shannon Gaudette says the stench at her daughter's school in Abbotsford is enough to make people sick. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The Abbotsford School District did not reply to multiple calls from CBC News, and has not provided a comment since the issue resurfaced this school year.

The Ministry of Environment sent a statement saying it had investigated and fined 93 Land Company $9,000 in June, and that complaints about the 'unauthorized commercial waste' facility had ceased after the company reduced odour generation during school hours in January.

But according to the ministry statement, there has been an increase in complaints recently, and staff are monitoring the situation, while a permitting process for the manure storage facility is underway.

93 Land Company said it has taken steps to address recent concerns, and is "actively pursuing consultation on how to improve the processes and operations on the property to minimize potential impacts on our neighbours."

For Gaudette, who says the smell triggers a gag-reflex, the recent steps the company claims to have taken haven't changed anything for people at the school, and she wants the manure storage to stop.

"Once they're in compliance, and have a proper facility and air filtration systems, we have no problem with them being there," she said. "but until that, they should be shut down."


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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