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What is that smell? Composting plant the source of 103 complaints

Harvest Power takes yard and food waste from the city and composts it, turning it into energy.  - Harvest Power photo
Harvest Power takes yard and food waste from the city and composts it, turning it into energy.
— image credit: Harvest Power photo

Richmond’s Harvest Power was named “Breakout Company of the Year” by the New England Clean Energy Council last Friday.

But the composting firm formerly known as Fraser Richmond Soil and Fibre won’t be receiving any accolades from Richmond residents anytime soon.

Since The Richmond Review’s front page story on Nov. 7 detailing complaints by locals about a foul smell, 72 odour complaints have been lodged with Metro Vancouver, which is responsible for regional air quality issues. Of those 72 complaints between Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, 19 came on Nov. 7, of which 15 were linked by investigators to Harvest Power.

That brings the total number of complaints for the year about a bad smell wafting from somewhere in Richmond to 245, of which Metro Vancouver investigators have fingered Harvest Power as the “probable source” of 103.

“Everybody in Richmond has noticed the smell,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. He said the city remains in contact with Metro Vancouver, which has jurisdiction in dealing with air quality issues.

“I would like to instantly find the specific cause and to deal with it immediately, unfortunately there are some issues where although you pay immediate attention to, you cannot solve it instantly. What I am doing and what other members of council are doing is trying to stay on top of this as best as we can.”

Harvest Power, which is near No. 9 Road and Highway 91 in East Richmond, takes yard and food waste from the city and composts it, turning it into energy.

“We are absolutely committed to dealing with this issue, and given our good record of odour management at the facility going back to the early 1990s, see it as a temporary problem that we can full resolve,” said Jeff Leech, regional vice president of Harvest Power.

“We are absolutely committed to dealing with this issue, and given our good record of odour management at the facility going back to the early 1990s, see it as a temporary problem that we can full resolve,” Leech said.

A large part of the problem is expected to be addressed by a new multi-million dollar anaerobic digester that recently came online, and encapsulates the composting process into a closed-air system.

Company officials believe the digester will address “the majority of the issues”, but is only one part of a multi-pronged approach that will see immediate improvement and ongoing improvements. That also includes increasing and upgrading the facility’s bio-filter capacity, implementing a facility-wide emission audit program, installing odour-control technology and modelling, and regularly checking on air quality downwind from the facility as a quality-control practice.

“The probable source of the remaining 141 complaints is unknown or in the process of being follow-up by staff,” said Ray Robb, manager of environmental regulation and enforcement division for Metro Vancouver. He said R. Wales & Son Industrial Rubber Rebuilders was the probable source of one odour complaint since the start of the year.

Asked what residents should do in the meantime until the issue is addressed, Brodie said they should “continue to voice their concerns, not let the matter go.”

To file a complaint online, visit www.tinyurl.com/RichmondStink or call Metro Vancouver at 604-436-6777.

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