It seems like, for the time being at least, Richmond is paying the price for the success of the entire Lower Mainland’s food waste recycling programs.
Such is the volume of food scraps and organic waste pouring into the composting facility in East Richmond, near No. 7 and Blundell roads, that foul fermenting stenches have drifted over large parts of the city for several months.
Metro Vancouver has been fielding wafts of complaints from ticked-off Richmondites, wondering where the smell was coming from, what it is and if it’s going to go away.
The regional body, which is responsible for air quality, confirmed on Tuesday that the majority of the complaints have been traced back to the Richmond facility, which is run by Fraser Richmond Soil and Fibre and owned by Harvest Power.
And such is the potency of the stench, Metro Vancouver may take a second look at what people are allowed to put in their organic waste bins for collection.
Harvest Power also confirmed to the News that part of the problem has been the unexpected volume of food waste arriving at the plant from new or recent door-to-door collection programs across the region.
However, staff from Metro Vancouver have been working for several weeks with their counterparts at the facility to come up with a plan to keep the stench to a minimum.
“The volume (of food waste) increased more quickly than expected,” read a statement from Oregon-based Harvest Power.
“We are proud of the community’s commitment to recycling. We are working diligently to meet the needs of the community.”
Harvest Power has also released a dedicated hotline for residential complaints about odours and other matters — 604-836-8387.
Metro Vancouver’s environment enforcement manager, Ray Robb, told the News it’s now working closely with the facility to reduce the frequency and strength of the odour.
“As the volume (of food scraps) have gone up, the odours have become more extensive across wider areas,” said Robb.
“We’re working with the company right now, looking at containing the odour better, which is a fermenting smell that seems to travel across longer distances.”
Robb said the bio-filters in the processing plant “could be doing a better job” and that enclosing parts of the screening process would go a long way to dealing with the odours.
“(The company) are being asked to do a better job preventing the odours’ formation, the collection of the odours and the treatment of the odours.”
Robb said Metro Vancouver will be meeting frequently with the company to “encourage” them to do more.
“We might look, longer term, at restricting some of the materials that are going into the program,” he added.
“We want to keep encouraging people to recycle their food waste, but we may change what can go in there.”
Harvest Power said it was “absolutely committed to dealing with this issue,” and sees the issue as a “temporary problem that we can fully resolve.”
It says it’s “actively addressing the odours” through such measures as: Increasing and upgrading the facility’s bio-filter capacity; implementation of a facility-wide emission audit program; installation of additional odour control technology and modeling;
regularly checking on air quality downwind from the facility as a quality control practice; and opening a new digester that will be used to process food waste indoors.
It also recently finished enclosing the screening area. “The most significant addition is an anaerobic digestion facility that recently came online that will divert odourous material into a closed air system,” the company’s statement read.
In addition, they will unveil a new visitor’s centre in the spring, designed to provide information to, and get feedback from, their neighbours and the public so they can “continue to deal with any issues.”