The stink over composting in Central Saanich is threatening to derail a $4.7-million agreement Saanich has with Michell Brothers Farm to process food scraps.
Saanich agreed to award the five-year contract to process kitchen waste from households in May — but that was before a Central Saanich uprising over odours and litter from the Foundation Organics composting operation.
“Right now, if you talk composting in our neighbourhood, it’s just so negative,” said Michell Brothers Farm owner Terry Michell.
“Our priority is our farming operation.”
Michell said he has not applied to the Capital Regional District for a licence for the composting operation. Given the complaints and uncertainty surrounding Foundation’s operation, he doesn’t know whether to sign the contract with Saanich.
Michell had planned to invest $1.25 million to $1.5 million in a state-of-the-art, in-vessel composting system to turn the food scraps into compost for its farm fields. “It’s an indoor system,” he said.
The same technology is being used in Abbotsford by Net Zero Waste to process that community’s food scraps. “There’s no odour,” said Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman. “Other than the product that is freshly dropped off that is contained within the building, there’s no smell.”
That’s not the story at Foundation Organics, which has been the subject of hundreds of complaints about odour and litter. The facility was composting food scraps collected in Oak Bay, Victoria and View Royal this summer until the CRD suspended its interim processing contract and issued a conditional suspension of its recycler licence.
Foundation has appealed, but the facility is temporarily prohibited from receiving and processing food waste.
That’s left the CRD scrambling to find processing facilities. Food scraps are being trucked over the Malahat to Fisher Road Holdings in Cobble Hill, but that operation is nearing its licensed capacity. CRD directors have decided to landfill any excess.
Central Saanich has filed a civil suit calling on the B.C. Supreme Court to order Foundation Organics to stop commercial compost production and sales, and to stop accepting material for compost. The municipality has also asked the CRD to establish a regional composting facility at Hartland.
Does that mean it doesn’t want any more composting facilities? Ryan Windsor, Central Saanich’s acting mayor, said any new facility would have to be considered on its own merits. But, he said, there’s a large group of residents concerned about composting, and they would be watching any new application closely.
Meanwhile, Saanich’s plan to have residents separate kitchen scraps from garbage is well underway. The program is being implemented before food scraps are banned from Hartland landfill in 2015, a bid to extend its lifespan.
The municipality has bought new trucks and 64,000 wheeled totes for the program expected to roll out next year.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said if Michell decides not to sign a contract, the district would have to look at either re-tendering or doing the processing itself. “But we’d have to have a location and logistics and public consultation,” he said.
Leonard said he would rather see the program delayed than have kitchen waste scraps separated from garbage, only to end up in the landfill.