Residents overpowered by smell coming from compost lot near Airdrie

A number of Airdrie residents say they’ve had just about all they can take from a horrible smell that’s coming a feedlot and compost facility that’s existed in the community for generations.

Dennis Gieck has lived in the area for over 70 years and says the stench really became unbearable at Thorlakson’s Feedlot, located between Airdrie and Irricana, about a year and a half ago.

“I’m not sure what changed. They had the feedlot for about 40 years. That’s just a manure smell, so we’re used to that, no problem. About 10 or 15 years ago, a composting facility was put in and I don’t know what changed a year ago, but it changed and the smell now is just a stench, a really intrusive stench.”

Gieck says that when the wind is just so, you don’t want to be anywhere near the area.

“If you have a barbecue on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll likely stand in the smoke because it smells a lot better than anywhere else.”

For the past 38 years, Lori Harnick has lived with the terrible smell of the business near her home and says that it just makes her gag.

“Gross, sweet, sour, dead unbelievable smell. It turns your appetite right off.”

She says that the odour is so bad that she can feel it taking a toll on her health.

“Every night this summer I went into huge sneezing fits and I do not do those kinds of things.”

Harnick says she hasn’t heard anything, either from the M.D. of Rockyview or City of Airdrie, about the issue.

“It affects everything in your life. It affects your way of living to wanting to enjoy a nice summer day. You can work on your garden or put your clothes on your line, but then you’re going to have to bring them back in the house and rewash them.”

Milton Scott, general manager of Thorlakson Feedyards, says the business has been operating as a composting facility for about as long as he has been at the job.

A few years ago, he says that the City of Airdrie approached them with an idea for a pilot project.

“It made sense to us; blending [compost] in with the manure. As probably a lot of people are aware, there’s been quite a bit of changes going into the rules and regulations for landfills as the need for green waste compost has increased.”

Scott says they see there is a need, so that’s why they want to expand the composting operation at the feedlot. They’ll need the city’s permission to change the land designation, but they won’t need to change much in terms of operation or equipment.

“Whether you’re doing 20,000 or 30,000 tonnes, really it doesn’t make any difference at all in the procedure; the equipment is the same, the odour is not going to be any different because you have to handle it all the same and the location of this facility just made a lot of sense to us.”

He says that he hasn’t noticed any difference in the level of the stench. In fact, Scott says that they have even just recently purchased a large mixer with a large capacity to help deal with that issue.

“We are going to be mixing in wood products with the green compost for a couple of reasons. We have an issue with birds, so by taking away their food source, we can reduce that. The second thing is that by mixing your wood chips and your carbon, you will speed up the heating process a lot quicker. What really makes compost smell is when it’s anaerobic, when it’s not heating properly.”

Scott says that they are striving to do the best they can to keep the facility as palatable as possible to the surrounding community.

“The feedlot has been here since 1970 and the smell on the feedlot has been here since 1970. What some of the complainants are saying about how they can tell the difference between a feedlot and compost, I don’t know how they can do that because I can’t tell the difference.”

Gieck says he will be making a complaint in person, representing about 100 other residents in both Airdrie and Irricana before Airdrie City Council on December 11.

(With files from Chris Epp)



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