Hamilton

Hamilton wants out of environmental regulations around smelly compost facility

New provincial legislation has led to seven times the number of odour complaints about the Hamilton Central Composting Facility in the last year.

'We don't have a grip on it,' councillor says, and it's generating 7 times the usual number of complaints

New provincial regulations say compost must be 40 per cent moisture before it can be cured. (Aim Environmental Group/YouTube)

New provincial legislation has led to seven times the number of odour complaints about the Hamilton Central Composting Facility in the last year.

Now, one city councillor says the city should temporarily stop following a rule from that legislaition until it figures out a way to handle the stench.

We don't have a grip on it. Until we do, we should discontinue complying.- Sam Merulla

Sam Merulla of Ward 4 says the province's 2016 rule that compost must be 40 per cent moisture or greater when cured has made life stinkier for residents in the Grenfell Avenue area.

Depending on which way the wind blows, they keep their windows shut tight and stay indoors because of "that compost smell." Last week, someone complained from as far away as Ottawa Street.

"I personally witnessed it," said Merulla. He drove down there himself last week, and the stench was "unbearable."

The Hamilton Central Composting Facility has drawn seven times the usual number of complaints in the last year. (Google Maps)

"We don't have a grip on it. Until we do, we should discontinue complying."

We are doing what we can.- Emil Prpic, manager of recycling and waste disposal

The city opened the facility at 1579 Burlington St. E. in 2006. The city owns it, and Aim Environmental Group operates it. It handles compost generated by Hamilton, Halton and Simcoe County — the equivalent of 70,000 tonnes per year from 1,668,000 people.

Usually, the facility generates about three odour complaints per year. In the past year, there have been 21.​

The 1579 Burlington St. E. facility is about 780 metres from the closest neighbourhood. (Google Maps)

Last year, the Ministry of Environment released new Ontario compost quality standards — the first update since 2004 — that say compost should be maintained at greater than 40 per cent moisture during curing. That means facility staff have to keep it damp, and that has been making it smellier.

If the city doesn't comply with those standards, said ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler, then the material isn't compost. 

"The city would be required to treat the materials as waste," he said in an email.

The city says it's trying. Mitigation measures have included storing less compost in the curing building and "odour neutralizer" in the stack exhaust, said Emil Prpic, manager of recycling and waste disposal.

Workers are also turning the compost as little as possible overnight, since turning it drums up the odours.

The city also hired Stantec Consulting to review ways to curb the odour. It received that report on Friday, Prpic said, and will eventually bring it to city council.

The smell "is not ideal, especially during the summer months when people are outside," Prpic said. "But we are doing what we can."

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