New Brunswick

Something smells fishy: Odour at lobster shell recycling plant angers residents

A factory in Richibucto that recycles lobster shells has been receiving complaints about smell and air quality from people who live in the area.

Omera Shells Inc. processes lobster shells and shrimp skins to be used as a fertilizer

Yvon Belanger lives down the street from the plant and says the strong fishy smell is unbearable. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

A factory in Richibucto that recycles lobster shells has been receiving complaints about smell and air quality from people who live in the area.

Omera Shells Inc. is a crustacean shell drying facility and has been operating in the area for the past two years.

The plant grinds, heats and processes old lobster shells and shrimp skins, turning the remains into a powder. The powder is later exported to Asia, where it's used as in the bio-medical industry and as a fertilizer.

Yvon Belanger lives down the road from the plant and said the strong fishy smell is unbearable.

"We can't live a normal life here," he said.

Omera Shells Inc. is located close to a residential area in Richibucto. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Belanger has trouble breathing and the scent makes his health issues worse.

He said his neighbours also had trouble selling their home, while others have had buyers back out because of the "nauseating smell."

He said the smell comes from both the shipments of shells coming from seafood producers to the plant, as well as from the process itself.

Finding a solution

Fernand Gaudet, spokesperson with Omera Shells, said the company is aware of the odour.

They've hired a company to analyze the air, identify the stinky molecules, and figure out a way to neutralize them.

They're also looking into installing a taller stack that would help eliminate any wafting scents from the plant.

In the meantime, he's hoping residents can be patient as the company finds its bearings.

"We're just asking for the patience of the community, it's on the verge of happening, we've been working on it," Gaudet said.

He said the presence of Omera Shells is a positive thing for the people of Richibucto because it will bring employment and boost the economy through its exports. The plant employs about 12 people.

"It would help the business if they could be patient a little bit so we can grow this business and pretty soon we'll have three or four shifts employing 40 to 50 people," Gaudet said.

Mayor weighs in

Richibucto Mayor Roger Doiron says he's heard complaints from many people about the strong fishy smell. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Richibucto Mayor Roger Doiron said the tradeoff isn't worth it.

"We are interested in jobs but not at any cost," Doiron said.

Residents have asked him multiple times to close down the plant but Doiron said his hands are tied, as Omera Shells received federal and provincial approvals to operate. 

"We don't have the authority because the permit was not given by the town," he said.