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Residents question proposed compost facility in Long Harbour

This image is a screen grab of the area in and around Long Harbour, an area being proposed for a new composting facility to be developed by Newfoundland Industrial Composting Inc. of Heart’s Desire.
This image is a screen grab of the area in and around Long Harbour, an area being proposed for a new composting facility to be developed by Newfoundland Industrial Composting Inc. of Heart’s Desire. - Contributed

Residents of Long Harbour are not sold — or at least not yet — on a compost facility being proposed for their community.

The Telegram learned a closed meeting was held on Tuesday night to discuss the potential construction of a compost facility in the community.

Joe Bennett, president of the Long Harbour Development Corporation, said Newfoundland Industrial Composting Inc. of Hearts Desire made a presentation to residents of the community.

“There was an information session held by the proponent, so they could go through an overview of the project,’’ Bennett said.

“They spoke about the size and scope of the project, what it would look like, where it would be built and what it would do.’’

Bennett said there were a variety of topics discussed, including some that were cited as drawbacks to the project, such as potential odour and traffic.

Residents Clyde Murphy and Darrell Keating both attended the meeting and posed a number of questions to representatives from Newfoundland Industrial Composting Inc.

“Right now it is of no personal benefit to me,” said Keating, who worked in waste disposal in Manitoba and New Brunswick.

“I am not interested in adding additional truck activity here. We have a multibillion-dollar facility here that already produces a lot of traffic. They are telling us this new facility will add one truck per hour to our roads,’’ he said.

The proposed facility, if approved, will be built on a site approximately five kilometres outside of town near the old Canadian National rail line, a short distance from the Trans-Canada Highway and adjacent to the Labco Foundry Ltd. site.

The proponent was contacted about this story but did not want to speak on the record.

“As for the facility, I don’t know. I have never visited one. We are being told the biofilters that are used, you can walk away from the product and there is no smell,’’ Keating said.

“As I said, I haven’t seen one, but I have driven by a chicken farm (in Whitbourne) on a few occasions and smelled it. If the same technologies are being used at this new facility, I find it hard to believe there will be zero emissions.’’

Bennett said the environmental technology that will be used has been around since the 1950s and those who are in the industry have seen and heard all the pros and cons of these types of projects. He said additional discussions surrounded traffic issues, pest control, odour control, esthetics of the facility, emergency management and fire protocol.

“There was a lot of good information shared at the meeting,’’ he said, noting approximately 60 people attended the session.

“The meeting lasted just under two hours and there was a full array of questions for the proponent. He answered the questions and those who attended appeared to leave satisfied with the information they were given,’’ he added.

Bennett said he thought the residents went away feeling informed.

“I am not certain of a number of things because I don’t have all the information yet,’’ Keating said.

“I am not certain of the odours, the possibility of rodents and how they will handle slaughterhouse and fish waste. There are a lot of unknowns for me right now.”

Dates back three years

This type of project has been in the works by the company's owner for about three years. The first attempts to get a plant built, first in Holyrood and more recently on the Argentia Access Road, were opposed by nearby residents. 

There was a great deal of public and business opposition to the commercial composting facility on the Argentia Access Road last year, as noted in a letter from government.

“This is the third place it’s being put forward. My question is why are all these places turning it down?” Murphy said.

“The demonstration they showed us with an apple core is little more than science for children. We are talking chicken carcasses, mink carcasses and offal from salmon farms. What about all that?’’

Murphy wondered if it is something the community needs and, if they go ahead with it, if it is a project they will later regret.

“I am just looking at the history of the project, starting in Holyrood, and these are studies done by people a lot smarter than me. For now, for me at least, the cons outweigh the pros of this project,’’ Murphy said.

A letter from then-Environment Minister Andrew Parsons, who was responsible for this portfolio during the initial stages, said there was opposition, and he requested an environmental impact statement (EIS), which the company appealed. The company lost the appeal and had to provide an EIS. The company gave up on that location.

Parsons announced an environmental impact statement (EIS) was required on May 17, 2018.

The decision was appealed on July 4, 2018, in accordance with Section 107 of the Environmental Protection Act.

He considered the appeal and determined that the original decision to require an EIS will remain in effect.

The minister’s decision letter to the appellant is available online at www.mae.gov.nl.ca/env_assessment/projects/Y2016/1838/index.html .

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