Mystery odour on Calgary's southeastern edge sparks search for source

There's something rotten in the southeast corner of Calgary — and the city intends to get to the bottom of the problem.

Resident says city has to do something about atrocious smell

Some southeast Calgary residents are being troubled by a foul odour, but it's not clear what it is or where it's coming from. The city is trying to figure it out. (Shutterstock)

There's something rotten in the southeast corner of Calgary and the city intends to get to the bottom of it.

Specifically, the problem is a most odiferous smell that has residents in some communities spending more time indoors this summer.

Kyle Pepper, who lives in the community of New Brighton, would like to be out enjoying the summer weather in his backyard. But he hasn't been because of something foul in the breeze.

"It's been pretty atrocious for weeks on end now and it's getting bad and they gotta do something about it. I think this is the worst year we've ever had," said Pepper.

"It's terrible. Usually in the evening."

Shelly Keen, who lives in Copperfield, said it's an awful odour.

"It smells like rotting, like a sour kind of a rotting smell," she said.  "I don't like it."

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer, seen here in council chambers in March, says he has heard the complaints about the smell. (Oseremen Irete/CBC)

The city councillor for the area, Ward 12's Evan Spencer, has heard the complaints.

"The reports coming in is that it smells like sour garbage or just fecal matters at times," said Spencer.

What's causing it?

The odour seems to come and go. But the biggest question he said is: what's the source?

The Shepard landfill is not believed to be the cause of the problem. Spencer said, at times, there can be odours coming from the city's composting facility.

It's also possible the smell emanates from nearby farm fields or from wetlands near Stoney Trail, which have been drying out during a recent stretch of hot weather.

Spencer learned this week that the city has hired a contractor to do monitoring at its southeast facilities.

Odour management a priority

The city said it does not know the source of the smell.

A communications supervisor with the city, Blair Riddle, said no odours have been detected in the vicinity of its composting facility.

"There has been almost no hauling of finished compost from the facility at all and absolutely no loading or hauling of finished compost has occurred in the evenings," said Riddle.

"Odour management is one of our main priorities. We've invested in odour control systems to filter them out. Large biofilters are used to reduce odours before exhausting air from the building."

While the search for the source of the stench continues, Spencer is encouraging residents to call the city's 311 service when they detect that smell on the breeze.


Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has worked for CBC News in a number of roles in several provinces. He's been a legislative reporter, a news reader, an assignment editor and a national reporter. When not at Calgary's city hall, it's still all politics, all the time.