Bad smells from northwest Edmonton composting facility prompt 300 complaints to city

Complaints about odours coming from Cleanit Greenit, a private composting facility in northwest Edmonton, have been so overwhelming that the city quit issuing tickets early this year.

City has stopped issuing tickets to Cleanit Greenit due to high numbers, court delays

Cleanit Greenit says it has agreed to a $4,000 fine in a bid to prevent a long and costly court hearing after being ticketed for contravening the city's odour bylaw. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Complaints about odours coming from a private composting facility in northwest Edmonton have been so overwhelming that the city quit issuing tickets early this year.

But complaints have continued to waft in — nearly 300 of them between Feb. 21 and Dec. 9, City of Edmonton spokesperson Chrystal Coleman said Thursday.

Cleanit Greenit was issued "a large number of bylaw tickets" early in 2020 before the city stopped issuing tickets on Feb. 20, Coleman said in an emailed statement.

Ticketing was abandoned "due to the large number of tickets issued and COVID-19-related court delays," Coleman said.

"Although we are satisfied that Cleanit Greenit has accepted some responsibility for generating odour, Cleanit Greenit has still been identified in recent complaints to the city as the source of an odour."

The company processes organic waste into soil. It has operated its facility near 204th Street and 113th Avenue in the Winterburn Industrial area since 1999.

Residents living nearby have complained about odours for years. In 2011, Alberta Environment ordered Cleanit Greenit to stop accepting waste following a slew of odour-related complaints.

Coleman said the city has been involved with enforcement related to nuisance odour at Cleanit Greenit since 2003, and that the last year has seen an escalation in complaints and enforcement.

Cleanit Greenit said Thursday it had reached a settlement with the Crown on some tickets issued early in 2020.

In a news release Thursday, the company said it has accepted a deal from the Crown after being hit with 33 tickets early this year under the city's odour bylaw.

Cleanit Greenit will pay $4,000 for the equivalent of 14 of the 33 tickets, the company said, to prevent "a lengthy and costly court proceeding."

Coleman said the Crown's settlement offer was for $250 on each of 12 tickets and $500 on each of two other tickets.

Coleman said the city will determine soon if future court actions are necessary against the company.

Odour bylaw 'flawed,' company says

In its news release, Cleanit Greenit said the odour bylaw should come under the scrutiny of city council.

"Although we accept some responsibility for generating odour, we fundamentally believe the City of Edmonton's odour bylaw is flawed and we strongly urge city council to review the bylaw," company CEO Kirstin Castro-Wunsch said.

"Under the current odour bylaw, all someone has to do is file a complaint. A bylaw officer can then issue a fine without investigation."

Castro-Wunsch said Cleanit Greenit sends out "odour patrollers" to investigate all complaints it receives and to patrol area neighbourhoods three times each week.

"Our investigations have shown that there are other sources of odour in the community, including sewers, sour wells, asphalt in road construction, pet food manufacturing, dry landfills, a recycling plant next door to the composting site, the Big Lake sewage lift-station and Big Lake itself," she said.

Other sources of odour can produce "a layering effect," the company said. It said that in 90 per cent of recent complaint investigations, the odour didn't last for more than 90 minutes.

The company said it has taken steps to improve its operations, including reducing the amount of material on-site, doubling the number of aeration pipes, increasing the use of biofiltration, hiring more odour patrollers and bringing in a composting expert to review procedures.