For years now, residents in west Edmonton have been complaining about stinky smells wafting through their neighbourhoods.
“It’s a really sour, putrid smell,” explains Trumpeter resident Sarah Hunter. “There’s times when we are outside when we go inside.”
Hunter said her young children seem especially sensitive to the smell, saying they sometimes complain about it indoors, as well, forcing her to close any open windows.
“In the past couple of years it’s gotten a lot worse. There’s been a number of communities built in this area, so now, whenever the wind is blowing in a certain direction, there is three heavily (populated) communities that get hit with the smell,” she said.
Ward 1 councillor Andrew Knack has heard a lot of complaints about the odour.
“At this point I would say I’ve heard from a couple hundred people, which is a fairly large amount on any one issue,” he said.
Residents believe the smells are emanating from a nearby composting company, called Cleanit Greenit.
The City of Edmonton has issued at least 33 smell bylaw tickets to Cleanit Greenit — and the company has paid fines for 14 of those.
But Hunter feels those fines are just seen as a cost of doing business, a problem that Knack acknowledges.
“That’s an imperfect solution for something like this,” he said.
Back in 2011, Alberta Environment took out an enforcement order against Cleanit Greenit, but Knack said in recent years, the province hasn’t appeared to be taking action on the outstanding file.
“Because we weren’t seeing action from the provincial government, we had to explore another option,” Knack said.
“We haven’t really done anything like this before as a city.”
What the city chose to do was take the company to court.
“The city is seeking an order from the court directing either closure of the facility, or imposition and completion of a court-ordered odour rectification plan,” wrote spokesperson Chrystal Coleman with citizen services.
“We’re waiting on a court date to go through a process that will have an appropriate resolution for the residents having the issues,” Knack explained.
“Residents are really happy somebody is stepping in,” Hunter said.
As for Cleanit Greenit, the company’s CEO, Kirstin Castro-Wunsch, says she’s looking forward to their day in court.
“The patrols are showing that our odour is really down, there’s only been two complaints since last November,” she said.
“We’ve increased the aeration and cover more with bio-filters. We put that on the pile and it strips odourous components out.”
She doesn’t believe the stink is coming from her business anymore.
“In our neighbourhood, we’re also not hooked up to sewers and that stinks. So people come and pull out sewage and that smells. Those are things people are picking up now, and they’re mistaking it for us,” Castro-Wunsch said.
She points to a recent company report, pointing out other potential smell sources, as evidence Cleanit Greenit isn’t to blame.
Hunter said she fears her community has given up on reporting the issue.
“Eighty percent of the people here don’t even bother to report an odour anymore when they do smell it, just because it’s so time-consuming and they’ve been doing it for years and nothing’s happened,” Hunter said.
In a statement, Jess Sinclair, press secretary to Environment Minister Jason Nixon, wrote: “The department is currently reviewing the facility’s progress in complying with provincial regulations. Environment and Parks staff recently conducted an inspection of the site to see if it had addressed the previously identified issues.”
But Hunter feels the company had been given enough opportunities to fix things.
“I would just like to see them shut down.
“They’ve had 11 years with their enforcement order to go into compliance and they’ve been unable to do that.”
If you have a smell complaint, you can lodge it with the city using 311. If you believe it’s coming from Cleanit Greenit, you’re asked to call the company’s hotline as well at 780-818-3128.