Residents in Leduc County are sharing their concerns about a proposal from a company called Carbon Capture Farms to develop a compost facility southwest of Edmonton near Thorsby.
After looking into the project, residents found Carbon Capture Farms is closely connected with Cleanit Greenit in Edmonton.
That west-end business has had hundreds of complaints about smells: so many in fact, the city recently opted to take Cleanit Greenit 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,” read a statement issued Feb. 18 from the citizen services department.
Alberta Environment has also had an open enforcement order on Cleanit Greenit for a decade.
The CEO of Cleanit Greenit, Kirstin Castro-Wunsch, is also part of Carbon Capture Farms.
Global News asked her about the new site in Leduc County and initially she said there was “no news on that.”
After being asked about a virtual townhall with county residents just hours before the interview, Castro-Wunsch acknowledged the proposal, saying it’s in the “preliminary stages.”
“We’ve learned so much with the Edmonton facility — obviously, the school of hard knocks — that we’re the best people out there to open another facility,” she said.
Global News then asked why the name of the company changed for the new site.
“That project is a different company that’s doing it, just using experienced people from this project. It’s a different company,” Castro-Wunsch said.
She also admitted the phone number for Carbon Capture Farms connects people to Cleanit Greenit. That has farmer Norman Ohrn concerned.
“We run the risk of them just moving their problems from Edmonton to Leduc County under a different name.”
He also feels the name is deceptive.
“Carbon capture, everything is about carbon capture these days. And the end of it — Carbon Capture Farms?
“They’re just trying to put a fuzzy name on it to try and pacify us county folk out here.”
Ohrn’s land and cattle are about a mile-and-a-half away from the property being considered for the new facility, near Range Road 10 and Township Road 494.
“My main concern, living on the haul road, is the large increase in heavy truck traffic.
“This is a main agricultural road used by large farm equipment. This will create a huge safety issue.”
Carbon Capture Farms will now have to undertake a traffic impact assessment, after the company’s application for a development permit was determined to be incomplete by Leduc County.
The company was also told it needed to engage residents in the area.
“Once the application is deemed complete by the development authority, Leduc County will circulate details of the application to residents in the area for review and comment before a decision is made,” a Leduc County spokesperson wrote in a statement to Global News.
Carbon Capture Farms has been hosting virtual townhalls with residents recently — but Michelle Martin, who lives in Thorsby, feels they aren’t going very well.
“The big thing is just the discrepancies and the changing of stories. Not sticking to the facts.”
In one of those virtual meetings, Castro-Wunsch said multiple aerators will keep the smells at bay — but that is being met with skepticism because of all the documented smell complaints in west Edmonton.
“If they’re so great, why haven’t you put them in that site?” Denice Pharis, another Thorsby resident, said.
“We may live rural, that’s our choice, but don’t treat us like country hicks.”
“It feels like they’re pulling the wool over our eyes and there’s no trust,” Martin added.
Stephen Sendziak has a seed farm near the proposed site, and he is also worried about heavy truck hauling compost on the roads, just like Ohrn.
“The traffic safety component right now, with the existing infrastructure, is very hazardous,” Sendziak said.
He added the gravel roads are quite narrow, have some blind hills, and are often used by slow-moving farm equipment.
“The degradation of the road and the damages that will occur on the road under certain conditions is a very grave concern.”
Ohrn said he thinks a potential solution would be for the company to move about 30 kilometres away near the Genessee power plant, on the west side of the county.
“There’s no people out there. The land has been cleared and stripped for miles.”
But as long as Carbon Capture Farms continues to push for a compost facility near Thorsby, Martin said she’ll fight it and hopes other residents will join her.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so let’s not be quiet about this.”