For residents living on Thomas Paine Street in Rivière-des-Prairies, the smell in their neighbourhood has been unbearable lately.
“It literally smells of dead skunks,” said resident Theo Vecera.
“It sticks to you and you need to take a shower to get it off you.”
“It’s nauseating; it just gets to you. It stops your breathing at times,” added Frank Serrecchia, a neighbour from a few doors down.
“It’s very much like putrid chicken rotting on your counter,” said Joseph Paglia, who lives a few streets over.
Instead of spending time outside on beautiful summer weekends, people have been seeking refuge indoors.
“We had a birthday party this past weekend, and I had to bring 14 children into my house because they couldn’t enjoy the outside,” said Vecera.
“We have a nice pool that we couldn’t use because everyone was complaining about the smell. It’s embarrassing,” said fellow resident Enzo Commisso.
The source of the stench is Sanimax. The company is located about a kilometre away from Thomas-Paine, but Vecera said over 1,000 people from the area have been exposed to the odour. Sanimax transforms animal byproducts into usable items like tires, pet food and soap.
“The last few weeks were quite difficult for us,” explained Sanimax general manager Eric Caputo.
Caputo said the company has been dealing with mechanical issue in recent weeks. That means during recent hot weather, the animal byproducts have at times just been sitting around outdoors in trucks, or inside the facility.
“Thirty-four truckloads were not processed in our plant because we did not want to let the trucks sit there too long and create inconveniences for our citizens,” Caputo said. He said trucks full of animal parts were sent to be dumped in landfills, while others were processed at the company’s other facilities.
This is not the first time Sanimax has angered Rivière-des-Prairies residents. In October 2018, a Sanimax truck carrying animal parts crashed, spilling entrails all over the road. These days, it’s the smell that’s the major problem.
“It’s not acceptable that my children feel they have to throw up,” said Vecera, demanding the city pressure the company to change their ways.
Borough councilor and Rivière-des-Prairies resident Lisa Christensen has first-hand experience with the issue.
“Many mornings I wake up and have breakfast with Sanimax, and have dinner in the evening in my gazebo with Sanimax,” she said. “I’ve lived in RDP for 15 years, and have been dealing with the odour for 15 years.”
She says the borough has just launched a new tipline for citizens to file complaints about Sanimax and other companies.
“Change happens when people mobilize and people stay strong. That’s how change happens,” she told Global News.
The city says there have been 4,300 complaints filed against Sanimax since 1992 — 210 last year and 102 so far in 2019. The company has racked up nearly $1 million in fines and is in multiple court battles with the city.
“We’re a responsible company,” said Caputo. “From time to time technical issues will happen, and we will continue to work with our elected officials and citizens to make sure everyone’s life is better.” He said the company has invested $75 million in improving their facilities in the past 15 years.
WATCH: (Oct. 25, 2018) RDP residents furious after truck spills animal carcasses on roadway
“They’d rather spend them on holding things up in court and fighting the fines we’ve given them, instead of taking that money and being a good corporate citizen,” said Christensen.
Residents say they want the company to leave the area.
“I’m tired of being treated as a second-class citizen, and it’s not just me, it’s everyone here,” said Vecera. “There’s a thousand homes here being disrespected.”
Sanimax insists they are in the area to stay, while the residents say they will keep speaking up.