Smelly Central Saanich composter loses court bid to get licence back

The Capital Regional District’s suspension of Foundation Organics’ licence has been upheld by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The Foundation Organics composting plant on Stanhope Dairy Farm in Central Saanich had been processing much of the region’s food scraps, but after repeated complaints from neighbours about unpleasant smells, the CRD suspended its recycler licence. As a result, the facility was prohibited from receiving and processing food waste.

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In a judgment released this week, Justice John Steeves dismissed Foundation Organics Ltd.’s request for a judicial review of the CRD’s decision.

Complaints about odours at the composting facility began in December 2011, increasing in August 2012, the judgment says. More than 1,400 complaints, registered by more than 50 individuals, were made between April 1 and Sept. 12, 2013 — including 50 on Sept. 9 alone.

Residents described the odours as sewage-like, putrid/rancid, rotten, sweet/fruity, sour, earthy, mouldy/musty, the judgment said. About 60 complaints were about a severe odour that caused symptoms such as vomiting, gagging, difficulty breathing, runny eyes and noses.

The CRD originally suspended Foundation Organics’ licence in last August. After a formal appeal hearing, the CRD upheld the suspension in October.

Foundation Organics’ lawyers argued that the CRD’s decision to suspend the licence was unreasonable because it did not indicate what should be done to have the suspension lifted and that it was procedurally unfair.

In his ruling, Steeves rejected the arguments, saying: “I cannot find any issue of procedural unfairness in these circumstances.”

CRD staff anticipate that by 2015, when the region’s ban on food scraps at the landfill kicks in, 30,000 tonnes of organics a year will be collected.

But with the suspension of the Foundation operation there are few local processing options. The CRD has been shipping organics to Fisher Road Recycling in Cobble Hill.

Saanich late last year signed a $4.85-million, five-year contract with D.L. Bins (Fisher Road Recycling) to process the food scraps it will start collecting later this year.

Foundation Organics can appeal within 30 days.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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