Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Metro Vancouver odour bylaw in the works

Metro Vancouver staff are drafting a bylaw in the latest round pitting the regional body against West Coast Reduction’s rendering plant at the foot of Commercial Drive.
Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier
Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal is “cautiously optimistic” Metro Vancouver can draft an odour bylaw that will finally quiet complaints about a stink dozens of Grandview Woodlands residents blame on West Coast Reduction’s rendering plant at the foot of Commercial Drive.

The stench worsens during hot weather and for years it’s generated hundreds of calls to Metro Vancouver, which is responsible for the region’s air quality.

Metro Vancouver tried amending the plant’s air emission permit through limiting “odour units”—a method accepted in the European Union, but the provincial Environmental Appeal Board ruled in March that odour units are unreasonable and unenforceable.

Last week, Ray Robb, Metro Vancouver’s division manager in the policy and planning department, told members of the regional district’s environment and energy committee, of which Deal is a member, that he’s drawing up an odour bylaw for the district board’s consideration.

Such a bylaw, which cannot be appealed through the EAB, could also apply to other operations that emit odour. Early candidates for the regulation include fish feed manufacturing and “composting and aerobic/anaerobic digestion of putrescible wastes,” according to the report. Metro Vancouver expects odour problems to grow as more organic solid waste is diverted from landfill and incineration. The regulation may include fees to reflect polluter-pay and user-pay principles, so taxpayers don’t have to subsidize the regulation of such industries.

The environment minister could still overturn the bylaw and West Coast Reduction could challenge it through the courts, but Deal is nonetheless hopeful it’s the answer.

“[The EAB] rejected odour units, so we need to find another tool. That could be a technological fix that says in order to control odour you must have your material at this temperature during transportation, as this temperature during the heating process,” she said. “West Coast Reduction is an important part of our industrial landscape in Vancouver. It’s absolutely necessary in the region and we want to make sure they continue to be good neighbours.”

Deal acknowledged it’s been a frustrating fight for residents, but gave WCC credit for investing in technological advances in past years to address odour complaints.

Although some critics argue such a plant shouldn’t exist in an urban area, Deal maintains its presence is important.

“It’s an important industry and a good employer in the city of Vancouver,” she said. “We don’t want to kick any industries that are difficult to live near out of the city because that includes a whole lot of things we rely on economically and that create jobs. I think the answer is to find a way to keep them compatible. Again, there are going to be industries with scents in the future as we come up with more ways of dealing with our organics rather than just throwing them in the garbage.”

West Coast Reduction operates at 105 North Commercial Dr. on land leased from Port Metro Vancouver.

The Port has handled few odour complaints since it launched a community complaint line on Oct. 14, 2009. Between January and June 2010, only two calls related to West Coast Reduction out of 156 calls, most of which focused on noise from the port.

Chris Badger, chief operating officer of Port Metro Vancouver, can’t reveal detailed information about the lease agreement because it’s a confidential contract.

Badger said the Port has been involved in discussions about residents’ odour concerns, and it’s among organizations trying to resolve the issues, but it doesn’t want to duplicate work done by Metro Vancouver.

“But you’ve also got to look at the rights of the industry as well. Clearly, the appeal board is there for a reason and they appealed in a legal way and it was dealt with in the normal process,” he said.

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