By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
The Town of Strathmore is dishing out thousands of dollars to participate in a pilot program aimed at addressing a repulsive odour that blanketed various parts of the town for months and spurred an outcry among angry residents.
The six-months pilot project to truck away bio-solids, is one part of a solution to combat a stench that appeared to be lingering north of the industrial area, especially with a southwest wind, and has been on the community’s radar since August.
After touring various sites, including Epcor Utility Inc. and H&H Huxted, town administration concluded the smell largely stemmed from bio-solids – organic matter recycled from sewage, often used in agriculture – that were mixed in with the H&H Huxted compost piles and originally came from Epcor. To rid Strathmore of the smell, the town has signed a contract to truck the bio-solids to a rural site outside of High River for a cost that was quoted at $20,000.
The announcement came at a time when residents took to social media to complain.
“It’s not something where I have to listen to the community, because I’ve smelled it and it’s absolutely gross, it’s a terrible smell and it doesn’t sit well in our community,” said Councillor Bob Sobol, who toured the sites.
“It’s not something that we look at as a positive thing and it’s something that we certainly feel is treatable. It’s not like the old cattle feedlot days where it’s the smell of money. This is not the smell of money. This is gross.”
Part of the problem occurred last August, when an aeration pipe to one of the composting piles at the H&H Huxted recycle yard was damaged – unbeknown to the employees. Once product was mixed and added to the bed, temperatures rose quickly posing a challenge for the staff to keep the pile under control. After tearing the bed apart and finding the collapsed pipes, the company was able to repair the damage, and is now working on getting the product cooked properly.
“Huxted will take responsibility for part of the issue and we repaired and fixed what happened on our part,” said Colin Huxted, owner operator of H&H Huxted. “We will not accept any more material that isn’t perfect. Once it goes aerobic, it’s a big problem.”
The recycle yard is also working on possible safeguards including smaller piles, greater focus on materials entering the piles, and using technology to alert the staff when temperatures are deemed problematic. The company also offers free tours of the site per request.
According to the Town of Strathmore, a meeting between the different parties – H&H Huxted, the Town of Strathmore, and Epcor – was scheduled earlier this week. Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule said Alberta Environment conducted testing and the aromas are safe and don’t pose a health risk.
“I totally understand why people are upset, myself as a resident I’m not happy with the smell either, and we’re trying to identify what’s the exact cause and we know that the bio solids have been entering the compost pile and we’re trying to determine what’s the best effort to go forward,” said Fule.
“That’s the key thing. All the major players have to get together and find out what the best solution is, and maybe it’s a couple of processes, to fix this once and for all. We’re definitely on it, we’ve heard them, we know they’re upset, and we’re upset and worried too because all of the councillors live in town as well.”
H&H Huxted, Epcor and the Town of Strathmore met to discuss the problem and further solutions on Jan. 10.