Edmonton composting company must close, pleasing residents concerned about odour

·3 min read
Cleanit Greenit must stop accepting waste at its west Edmonton facility, having lost its provincial registration and a court application to keep operating. (Ty Ferguson/CBC - image credit)
Cleanit Greenit must stop accepting waste at its west Edmonton facility, having lost its provincial registration and a court application to keep operating. (Ty Ferguson/CBC - image credit)

An Edmonton composting company must cease operations, having lost its provincial licence and a court application for permission to keep operating.

Cleanit Greenit Composting Systems in northwest Edmonton has been turning organic waste into compost since the late 1990s.

The provincial government announced last year that the company's registration would be cancelled on June 30, 2022, but Cleanit Greenit decided to challenge that decision in court and applied for a stay so it could keep running in the meantime.

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kevin Feth dismissed the application in a written decision published Friday.

"My determination is that the balance of convenience favours the public interest over the interests of Cleanit Greenit," he wrote.

This means the company cannot accept any waste and cannot produce compost at its west Edmonton facility. A judicial review of the provincial registration decision is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2023.

The decision is good news for a number of northwest Edmonton residents, who have complained for years about a nauseating odour wafting from the facility to their neighbourhoods.

"I feel that it's a fair decision," said Nadiia Pugach, a Trumpeter resident who has been bothered by the smell since she moved to the neighbourhood in October 2018.

Puglach said she has nothing against compost and uses some in her garden, but odours should be contained. Over the years, she submitted 60 odour complaints to the City of Edmonton about the facility.

A spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks said the ministry was pleased with the decision.

In a statement sent to CBC News on Friday afternoon, Cleanit Greenit CEO Kirstin Castro-Wunsch thanked the company's supporters and said the company will work hard to transition staff to new projects.

"We are sad that our Edmonton area will lose a much-needed piece of infrastructure to recycle organics into compost in a time of climate change when this is critical," she said.

Company tried to keep running

In court on Aug. 17, the company's lawyer, Cameron Prowse, argued that there were numerous serious issues to be tried, that the closure of the business would cause irreparable harm and that the harm of shutting down the company would outweigh the harm to the public if it remained open.

In January, the Environmental Appeals Board dismissed the company's appeal of the cancellation decision, saying the decision wasn't appealable. According to the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, only companies with approvals, not registrations, can pursue appeals.

Citing an old transcript from the Alberta legislature, Prowse said the appeal process should apply to registrations too because the board was created to provide a system of checks and balances.

"The abrupt closure of a composting site is not something that works either for the environment or for the party," Prowse said in court.

He said without permission to keep running, the company would lose its only income stream and would not be able to pay its eight employees.

Prowse said multiple municipalities, including Strathcona County, Edson and Hinton, would have to find somewhere else to accept their organic waste if the facility closes.

The province's lawyer, Shauna Finlay, argued that the company created its own crisis by delaying making an application for approval and an application for a judicial review of the province's decision.

"They delayed taking the steps and now are saying, well now it's an emergency and we should be saved from this emergency," she said in court.

Prowse said in court that there hadn't been a lot of recent odour complaints because of steps the company had taken.

"Even if some of the public harm has been mitigated, the remaining risk is substantial," Feth wrote in his decision.