Compost facility sorely needed: proponent

Company disputes complaints about stink, fire and chemicals

Published on June 5, 2016
Terrance Penney of Metro Environmental Ltd. disputes complaints being made about his company’s proposed industrial composting site. Residents have expressed concerns about odor, fire and environmental impact. — Photo by Louis Power/The Telegram
Louis Power/The Telegram

Terrance Penney has heard the opposition to his company’s proposed industrial composting facility, and says there’s a lot of misinformation being spread.

Metro Environment Ltd.’s plan to open a facility on the Argentia Access Road near Whitbourne has drawn the ire of many residents there — including some on the town’s council. But he said concerns about a foul smell, chemicals and fire are groundless.

“It’s very simple, a carbon to nitrogen ratio. It’s a mix. When you get a smell, say from your landfill, that’s nitrogen. The only cure for that is carbon,” he said.

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The nitrogen in Metro Environment’s composting facility would come from organic waste like fish guts, chicken carcasses and waste from mink farms; much of the carbon in this equation would come from construction waste — wood that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Once the right mix has been found, Penney said, odor won’t be an issue.

“Carbon takes away the smell. Composting done properly, there’ll be nothing in the way of smell — nothing that would bother a town. Probably around the site, you’d smell a little bit of something, but nothing that would go out into the town.”

He added that the proposed structure would also have to be enclosed for climate control. The materials would have to be kept at 55 F and above, and Newfoundland’s climate would not allow for year-round work. Penney said keeping the operation indoors also means there would be no problem with flies or birds at the facility.

He said he’s heard some people are afraid that the facility will use chemicals in the composting process — something that puzzles him.

“The only things we’ve got, we’ve got carbon, nitrogen, air, and moisture,” he said. “If you call that chemicals, that’s what we’ve got. Carbon is wood. Nitrogen will be chicken or animal flesh, or call it whatever you want. That’s the nitrogen.”


A first for N.L.

Should the proposal, which is now under an environmental assessment, be approved, the facility would be the first of its kind in this province. It would take waste from the agriculture, aquaculture and construction industries and transform it into organic topsoil that can be sold to farmers.

Penney said there are a number of these facilities in Nova Scotia already, and the service is sorely needed here, where a lot of that waste is being buried.

“You can’t just take this stuff and bury it. If it was as simple as that, you wouldn’t need composting. Anybody could do it. (People are) burying it now, but Environment knows that they can’t continue doing this,” he said.

The proposed facility would include a cement floor and leaching area — though Penney said leaching is not expected as work would be done on a daily basis.

As for the fire concern, Penney said the buildings would have hoses inside, and the wood chips would be kept moist to reduce dust.

He said the business would be welcomed by farms, aquaculture sites and construction companies.

“All of these facilities go hand in hand with each other. They grow their fish and sell it, we take care of their waste, and in the end we get a beautiful topsoil that we can sell. All recycling. The landfills, all their construction waste, we can take all of that,” he said.

The need for such a site is also well known within the provincial government, he said, and the government will have a hand in regulating the facility.

“If this facility is given an opportunity, Forestry and the Environment, they’ll be looking at us like a hen on a worm, watching everything, seeing how it’s done,” he said.

Residents still have an opportunity to express their concerns about the project. The deadline for submissions is June 15. A decision is expected by June 25.

Penney said if it is approved, the facility should be ready to roll in 90 days. The company plans to build two more in the province.

“This can be done, and we can work with this 100 per cent. When we get this up and running, and get the cobwebs taken out of it, like the mix ... the first thing people will say is, ‘I don’t know what all the hoopla was about.’”

For more information on the project click here.

Twitter: @TelyLouis