Compost facility with 'horrible putrid, dead smell' ordered to close in Rocky View County

A controversial compost facility that neighbours say reeks may have to close after county council denied its application for a development permit.

Thorlakson Nature's Call east of Airdrie was apparently operating without proper county permit

The Thorlakson facility, shown here on a satellite map, has been ordered to close by Rocky View County. (Google Maps)

A composting operation east of Airdrie may need to close after Rocky View County council denied a development permit for Thorlakson Nature's Call, a facility that has stirred up complaints from neighbours over its olfactory impact on the area.

While the open-air compost facility initially opened as a manure composter, since 2016 it has also been trucking in organic residential waste from nearby municipalities, and also accepts waste from a beef processor.

The company has been ordered to stop trucking in organic waste immediately.

According to Greg Boehlke, reeve of Rocky View County, the company also needs to clean up and shut down that part of the site in 90 days.

Greg Boehlke is reeve of Rocky View County. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

That's not realistic, said Milton Scott, general manager for Thorlakson Nature's Call.

"It takes more than 90 days to do the process [shutting down]," explained Scott, who said the company is disappointed and may apply for an injunction to block the decision.

Council voted unanimously

According to the reeve, six months ago county council changed the land use designation for the compost facility from "ranch and farm" to being under a "direct control bylaw."

As explained by Boehlke, that meant the land required a development permit for Thorlakson Nature's Call to continue to operate as an organic composting lot. That permit application was rejected on Tuesday.

The company did have a permit from Alberta Environment. Boehlke described the dual permits as "a jurisdictional thing that's a nightmare" and said the county would like to work with province on that issue.

Myrt Butler lives near the noisome compost lot and says she's happy its permit was not approved. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Council voted unanimously to deny the permit for the organic compost part of the lot, though the original manure composting would be allowed to continue, according to the reeve.

"A dead body left out in the field"

Area residents and landowners were celebrating the decision outside the county office on Tuesday, with many gearing up for a protest only to find when they arrived that the council had considered the issue early.

"It's like a dead body that's been left out in the field for a month," said Myrt Butler who lives nearby.

"We've had this horrible putrid, dead smell," said Lori Harnack, who lives directly east of the compost site and explained they've suffered from the malodorous surroundings for almost five years.

Lori Harnack lives east of the facility and calls it "putrid." (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

"If this continued [and] we needed to sell our farm, who was going to buy our farm?" Harnack hopes to pass the family farm on to her children and said the decision to force the compost lot to halt operations gives her hope.

Company said it was trying to address concerns

According to Thorlakson manager Milton Scott, the company was trying to deal with the problem by bringing in international engineering firms to assist with reducing the odour.

"We had asked many times for a report of… complaints with the county and never received any of them," said Scott, who added that odour complaints about the facility had gone down.

While Scott said he thinks people want composting, it appears nobody wants it near their backyard.

"I believe in composting. I think it's a good thing," he said. "I guess right now it appears the masses don't."


Anis Heydari


Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but somehow ended up a jack-of-all-trades at the CBC. He hasn't won any awards, other than a 1996 award for violin at a small town Alberta music festival. He's now working at CBC Radio's The Cost of Living covering business and economics. Reach him at

With files from Jennifer Lee


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