The foul odour that has stunk up lower Commercial Drive for years may dissipate early next year when the rendering plant and Metro Vancouver sit down to clear the air.
The two sides are negotiating changes in West Coast Reduction’s air quality permit after failing to agree in contentious legal disputes.
“If we can come up with a permit that the company can live with and we think is going to do the job, we are done,” said Ray Robb, district director at Metro Vancouver.
West Coast Reduction Ltd., founded in 1964, renders 1.6 million pounds of animal by-products per day from meat, pork, fish and poultry processors in the Province. The plant recycles kitchen oil from thousands of restaurants in the region.
The rendering process generates unpleasant odours, which radiate to neighbouring streets. The stink intensifies when it is warmer outside.
“It always smells like flesh burning,” said Don Dickson a resident and owner of South China Seas Trading Company, a specialty food store on North Commercial Drive.
“It smells really bad…like cat food gone bad.”
“You never know whether to have a big barbecue on a Saturday or not,” said Dickson. “If it smells, it is not going to be a good time to have friends over.”
Metro Vancouver won’t impose a bylaw – something residents had hoped for – if the city is satisfied with the new permit.
Companies need to be authorized by either a bylaw or a permit, Metro Vancouver explained.
A first draft of the permit is expected in first few weeks of December.
“The idea is to get something in place so we can offer the residents some reprieve next summer,” Robb said. “It might not be the final solution, but it would be an improvement.”
The plant appealed in 2008 to new permit impositions. Negotiations with the city may lead to a breakthrough agreement.
The city tried to regulate the stink by imposing a limit of “odour units” in 2007. The Provincial Environmental Appeal Board ruled in March 2010 that this measure was unenforceable.
“We lost, the residents lost,” said Robb.
West Coast Reduction officials successfully argued that “odour units” was not a scientifically measurable method. Because sense of smell is subjective, they said, this measure is often inaccurate and imprecise.
“If you are over the limits, you are out of compliance with your permit and you either cease operations or you can be fined, “ said Ken Ingram, West Coast Reduction’s director of technical and environmental services.
Metro Vancouver did not seek a judicial review of the Environmental Appeal Board’s decision, but decided to draft a new bylaw last June to control odour emission in the district area.
The rendering plant started a community advisory panel that includes residents, area businesses and community groups.
“The intent is to hear their concerns face to face rather than through an appeal,” said Ingram.
Through improved technology and more dialogue, the company hopes to resolve the stink affecting residents between Victoria Drive and Hasting Street faster.
“We are concerned about their neighbourhood because it is our neighbourhood too,” said Ingram.
Controlling the odour
The company manages bad smells from the plant through enclosed, computer-controlled processing systems. Multistage scrubbers and two thermal oxidizers restrict the stink generated at the plant.
But West Coast Reduction has five stacks that produce the main odour emissions around Grandview-Woodland.
“We recognize that West Coast is absolute essential to the management of animal waste,” Robb said. “But we are also here to serve the needs of the community and they expect and they deserve air quality.”
The company is currently experimenting with new alternatives that could improve the air quality coming out of the plant. Taller and narrower stacks, an increase of air temperature and a series of three scrubbers are some of the ideas tested by West Coast Reduction as a mean to reduce odour discharge, Robb said.
Air quality bylaw
The city intends to reduce the amount of organic waste that goes into landfill, incineration or sewage for better usage in the coming years.
Metro Vancouver expects new rendering facilities to open around the district area soon. They can potentially spawn odours in other communities when organic waste gets warm or sits around.
Even though West Coast Reduction might be exempt from an air quality bylaw, Metro Vancouver will peruse its implementation for other similar plants.
“We want to allow people some confidence that once they [new waste management companies] come to their communities to produce some kind of fuel, is not going to stink up their neighbourhood,” sad Robb.
Facts about rendering
- It is a process that reduce waste animal that are not suitable for human food into useful materials by cooking them at high temperatures.
- The majority of the raw material comes from slaughterhouses, abattoirs, butcher shops and grocery stores.
- The most common animal sources are fish, beef, pork, and poultry.
- Fat is refined and separated into tallow and oil, which are used by oleo-chemical producers and soap manufacturers
- Protein is reduced to powder, which is used as ingredient in animal food.
- Water is filtered and released into the sewage system.
- Rendered products are used for pharmaceuticals, lubricants, plastics, personal care products, and even crayons.
- Rendered products are also used by the biodiesel industries.
- Rendering plants often handle slaughterhouse blood, feathers and hair.
- Without rendering plants landfills, sewers and drains would be overflowing with rotting protein.
- Every year, the North American rendering industry recycles approximately 59 billion pounds of perishable material.
- The National Renderers Association (NRA) estimate that Canada and the United States have a combined 250-260 rendering plants.