With the threat of losing his business licence hanging over his head, Owen Carney is doing everything he can to fix the odour problem at his Squamish composting facility.
"It’s such an important project for everybody we’re hoping we can make it work for the good of everybody," said Carney this week.
At its Feb. 21 meeting Squamish council issued Carney’s Organic Recycling with a formal notice of a hearing in one month’s time in which they would consider terminating his composting business licence. The hearing was in response to numerous complaints about the smell, which has been plaguing the business park since composting began in May 2004.
"Right from the start (the smell) was an issue that we hadn’t counted on and so we spent a lot of money to try to correct the problem," said Carney. "Our neighbours were very patient but they finally sort of said ‘smarten up.’ We’ve been trying but it’s not quite that easy to do."
This week however Carney’s tried something new. Instead of moving the composted material twice on the site before trucking it to the landfill for the curing stage, they are now immediately transferring the material directly onto the trucks.
Carney said he’s noticed a change already and he’s hoping this will make a difference at the March 21 hearing.
"In the next few weeks we should be in good shape," he said.
Carney has spent an additional $1 million on top of the initial $7.5 million investment in fixing the odour issues at the facility, which processes 60 tons of material a day.
It was because of all this time and money that council and the community was patient, said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland. But the problems have persisted despite all previous efforts to deal with them.
"Over the past two years the community has been quite patient, council and staff have been quite patient, mainly because everyone does support the concept and everyone does acknowledge that Carney’s has spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to fix the problem," said Sutherland. "But it’s come to the point now where I think we have to deal with it one way or another and just move on with it."
The facility takes organic waste from the Sea to Sky corridor – food, biosolids and wood waste – and turns it into compost.
Whistler sends some of its organic waste from hotels and restaurants to the Carney’s facility. It could be sending more, said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and planning with the municipality. Whistler staff is investigating the opportunities to provide more compost waste to Carney’s and keep it out of the garbage stream. Though a relatively new program, composting is critical to Whistler’s goal of achieving zero waste.
"We’ve done audits of our garbage waste and so we actually confirmed through detailed audits that there is a large volume of organic waste in our waste stream in Whistler, so it’s important to us that we support the Carney’s composting facility and add more volume to it," said Barnett. "It’s important to us that we carry on with that program."
District of Squamish staff has outlined three options for council to consider on March 21. They can revoke the business licence for Carney’s Organic Recycling, which means the composting would stop permanently. The second option is to suspend the licence until the improvements are made. The final option is to relocate the business while trying to minimize the odour in the short term. A move is estimated to cost $3.5 million.
"The solution will be made at the meeting on the 21 st of March," explained Sutherland. "I’m not going to prejudge that. But certainly staff is helping us identify options and they’re working with Mr. Carney to come up with options and ideas and we’ll deal with all of those on the 21 st .
"Everyone in the community wants it to work and we’re hoping that the latest changes do work."