New Brunswick Coastal Shell facility shuts down: ‘We’ve been working at a loss’

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N.B. shell facility shuts down
The Coastal Shell facility in Richibucto, N.B. announced its closure this weekend, following years of community concerns over odours from the plant. As Silas Brown reports, the company say the business is no longer viable without public funding to help address the ongoing complaints – Jun 17, 2024

The general manager of the Coastal Shell facility in Richibucto says the decision to shut down is partly due to missing out on public funds for an odour mitigation system.

“We’ve been working at a loss that was kind of created artificially by these reduced hours,” Jamie Goguen said in an interview.

The company announced it would cease operations on Saturday, laying off 20 staff. Goguen said that restrictions on operating hours over the last year and a half had led to a $1.2 million operating loss. There have been loud calls from the community and opposition parties for the plant to be closed or moved due to the odour it creates.

The facility, which dries lobster and shrimp shells to be used in products like fertilizer, had only been able to run from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. since May of 2023. Previously it had been able to run outside of school hours, which Goguen said would have allowed it to survive for longer while it looked for funding opportunities.

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About $250,000 had been spent to research and design a $3 million odour mitigation system. The company hoped to secure funding from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund in order to partially pay for the rest, but had their application rejected three weeks ago.

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“The share holders have supported the losses over the last year and a half in the hope that government would step up and provide aid for a solution,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Residents of rural N.B. town await decision on Coastal Shell injunction'
Residents of rural N.B. town await decision on Coastal Shell injunction

For Maisie McNaughton, part of the Kent Clean Air Committee, the closure is being greeted as a win.

“No business that operates anywhere in Canada should do so on the backs of thousands of people and compromise their right to breathe clean air and enjoy the freedom of their backyard,” she said.

McNaughton is set to meet with New Brunswick’s environment minister, Glen Savoie, in Fredericton on Tuesday, where she hopes to get confirmation that the plant will not reopen. She said the group is also hoping to have the land rezoned to ensure a similar business can’t operate there in the future.

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Goguen says it’s possible the facility could resume its activities, but not without a mitigation system in place and an agreement that it could operate more frequently. But without a commitment of public money he says he’s not confident that will be possible.

But McNaughton said she thinks enough is enough.

“At some point, you know ,you just … see that this is an unproven business model with unproven technology and unfortunately at the end of the day it was us that suffered for eight years while this scientific experiment was conducted,” she said.

In a statement, Savoie said that the company’s approval to operate would expire at the end of August and that their operating hours were to remain the same until they had installed the mitigation system. At a meeting in May of 2024, the company asked to operate 24 hours a day until the system was in place, but that request was denied.

“The department required that the equipment be installed by July 2024. To date, the department has no indication these upgrades are in the process of being implemented,” Savoie said.

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