June 11, 2019 7:22 pm
Updated: June 11, 2019 7:27 pm

Surprise move by Rocky View County officials sees Stop the Stench group’s battle end, for now

WATCH: It was a relentless fight Rocky View County residents have been pursuing for close to six months over the stench in the air. Tuesday morning they were all stunned by a sudden victory, but as Jill Croteau reports, their battle may be just beginning.

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A group called Stop the Stench has been protesting a proposed development for six months and is now in a state of disbelief over a sudden victory.

The community group was desperate to stop the development in their neighbourhood, east of Airdrie.

On Tuesday, they were hoping to convince Rocky View County Council members to deny the expansion of the Thorlakson Nature’s Call compost facility. Not only did councillors turn down expansion, they ordered the compost site at the feedlot to shut down completely within 90 days.

Thorlakson Feedyards

Jill Croteau

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Stop the Stench’s Dennis Gieck said about 25 members of his group showed up ready to protest with their picket signs, but didn’t need them after all.

“They said, ‘All in favour,’ [and] put up their hand[s]. It was unanimous,” Gieck said. “The whole thing was over in two minutes and we are sitting wondering, ‘Is this right? What just happened here?'”

The feedlot is still allowed to operate. Area resident Lori Harnack lives downwind of the operation and said the stench has been unbearable.

“It’s been horrible,” she said. “You can’t open the windows and when you go outside, your eyes water, you sneeze, it gets into your throat.

“It wrecks your life.”

Protest organizer Myrt Butler echoed those comments on the feedlot.

“When the stench would hit, we couldn’t be outside,” Butler said. “We had to go in and shut the windows. It was intolerable — just awful — so now, we’re free.”

Group gathered outside Rockyview County office to celebrate.

Jill Croteau

But the fight might not be over. A lawyer representing the Thorlakson facility said they were just as shocked at the county’s decision.

Keith Wilson said they will be filing paperwork to ask for an immediate injunction to allow them to continue operating. The facility’s operators are also filing a judicial review application to ensure they don’t get shut down.

Wilson told Global News that the facility has invested a lot into trying to address concerns being raised about it. He said the operators have hired odour control experts, re-engineered the aeration and conducted environmental impact studies. They insist a closure would impact community recycling programs.

Global News asked county officials for an explanation on the sudden decision, but were told that nobody was available for comment.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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