Sunday, September 18, 2011

Odour from poultry plant damages neighbours complain

On the heels of provincial charges laid last week against poultry processor Lilydale, a group of residents living near the plant have now launched their own court action demanding the innercity plant clean up its act. Complaints over noise levels, odour control and improper waste storage, allowing birds to drag chicken parts into residential yards, are outlined in a statement of claim filed by the group's representative Ecojustice. "This plant interferes with the residents' ability to use and enjoy their property," said Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyer. Although Lilydale has been operating at the site since 1969, Robinson stressed what was once a small, nineto-five business is now an expanded 24/7 operation. "This kind of a nuisance doesn't care who got here first. It's about being a good neighbour." The group held an outdoor news conference next to the Lilydale plant Wednesday. Only a few feet from their Ramsay homes, the stench of the slaughterhouse was clearly evident, in spite of a strong breeze. Their claim, which seeks $250,000 in damages, also details a 2009 ammonia spill at the plant that forced several people from their homes. It led to a provincial government investigation that resulted in two charges laid last week under the provincial Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The province alleges Lilydale not only released a substance that "could have caused a significant adverse effect" in the southeast community, but that it also failed to file a timely report about the incident to authorities. Robinson noted Ecojustice has also been asking, and is still waiting, for an emergency response plan from the company should any other similar events occur. Residents painted a grim picture of life alongside Lilydale, saying it has affected their lives in many ways. Robin Tufts, who has lived across the street from the plant for over 20 years, says he still gets awakened from deep sleeps at night with the backup alarms of trucks blaring at all hours. And the stench, he adds, is on some days simply unbearable. "It's very frustrating. Some days are better than others, but some days, I can't even sit on my front porch and have a coffee." Todd Ford, who's lived on the same street as Tufts for 10 years, said his daughter has found chicken parts while playing in the yard. "It's difficult to invite guests over for a barbecue when you don't know if the plant is going to smell like a garbage dump or if you are going to find a chicken head in your backyard." Lilydale did not make any detailed comments Wednesday, only issuing a brief statement. "Lilydale is of the view that our operations comply with all zoning and bylaw requirements and will be defending the claim made against us," said spokeswoman Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard in an e-mail. Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra has held meetings with Lilydale this summer, explaining that the plant's new ownership has slowed the effort to move them out of the community of Ramsay. Carra's goal is to have it relocate to a more suitable site, either in southeast Calgary's industrial lands or outside of Calgary, within three to five years. Any sooner, Carra said, might be not be feasible given current economic conditions and financial constraints. But Lilydale could face even more financial challenges when it appears in court next month on charges surrounding the 2009 ammonia leak. It is scheduled to appear in Calgary provincial court Oct. 21 and, if found guilty, could face a maximum total fine of $1 million. The 2009 incident saw some concerned Ramsay residents temporarily flee their homes and police close down a three-to four-block radius of the community. The leak was located and stopped within 90 minutes and nobody required emergency treatment. However, people were told to close doors and windows and shut off furnaces to avoid circulating contaminated air. Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment, but can irritate people's skin, eyes, throat and lungs in high concentrations. Read more:

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