Odour bylaw doesn't pass Delta council smell test

New Metro Vancouver odour bylaw is not expected to impact most normal farming practices. - File Photo
New Metro Vancouver odour bylaw is not expected to impact most normal farming practices.
— image credit: File Photo

Delta council has expressed concern over a new Metro Vancouver odour bylaw which may target the agricultural sector for emitting unpleasant smells.

"Farming is synonymous with odours," said Coun. Ian Paton. "I mean, we have many dairy farms still in Delta. We have chicken farms in Delta. It's just endless. Where do we draw the line in the end where we'll be charged huge fees to run a business in agriculture that could possibly emit some odours."

According to the proposed legislation, companies would be classified within categories of low, moderate, and high potential for odour emissions.

Low potential sources include most farms and cold animal processing plants (frozen fish); moderate potential includes composting facilities with less than 30,000 cubic metres of non-farm waste, and warm animal processing but less than 100,000 animal units per year (such as Great Pacific Bioproducts in Tilbury); and high potential such as composting operations involving materials other than yard waste greater than 10,000 cubic metres (such as Enviro-Smart Organics in Ladner), animal feed production sites, and rendering plants.

Moderate potential facilities would have to register and pay a one-time $500 registration fee and develop an odour management plan to Metro Vancouver, while high potential facilities would have to obtain an air emission permit, measure odour emissions, and pay an annual fee of $5 per year for every person impacted by the odour based on that estimate (to a maximum of $150,000 per year).

"I think the moderate potential category is fine," said Jason Connors, production and sales coordinator for Great Pacific Bioproducts. "It's not onerous and it's more of a cooperative approach between municipal leaders and industry to get a handle on what is an issue for certain people."

But Connors said the high potential model is a concern because the designation is confusing and punitive. He suggested the money would be better spent on odour control management than fines.

"My fear is that the bylaw can take on a life of its own and start to not really try to solve the problem but funnel money to the government just to cover the problem. But the problem's still going to be there."

John Savage, president of the Delta Farmers' Institute, said the bylaw is based on the concept of "pollute in exchange for cost" and does not and will not stop odours.

"We do not believe 'odour' means pollution—many 'odours' that may be offensive to some are actually acceptable by the public generally," he wrote in a December letter to the BC Agriculture Council.

Paton said there's some confusion over whether the provincial government's Right to Farm Act overrides Metro Vancouver's odour bylaw.

"Both apply, in that the Right to Farm Act protects farmers that are operating under normal farming practices from nuisance bylaws and nuisance complaints," said Mike Brotherston, Delta's manager of climate action and environment.

"Metro Vancouver's authority provided by the province is to regulate air quality and pollution. The Right to Farm Act doesn't authorize or allow farmers to pollute."

Coun. Scott Hamilton said he sits on Metro Vancouver's Zero Waste Committee where the bylaw was first introduced as a means of extending protection against air pollution.

"Where this is being advanced beyond that with this odour control bylaw, and can be considered an issue of concern in Delta, is when it comes to what Metro Vancouver is going to define as a non-standard farm practice," he said.

Delta's chief administrative officer George Harvie said the stimulus for the bylaw seems to be revenue collection.

"The primary purpose of this legislation, the primary mechanism is to collect fees," he said.

Coun. Bruce McDonald said it's hypocritical to enforce odour control for "Farmer Jones" while Metro Vancouver's Annacis Island sewage treatment plant is able to continue.

"You know we have police department and there's laws passed and they have to enforce those laws against everyone, including their own," he said. "They're probably the biggest smell generators in the region."

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