A group of Richibucto residents have lost their latest move to try and stop what they say is an unbearable smell coming from a shell processing plant.
In a written decision on Tuesday, Justice Christa Bourque dismissed the request for an injunction to halt operations at Coastal Shell Products.
Coastal Shell opposed the motion on the grounds that because it produces fertilizer, it is an "agricultural operation" and therefore its operations can't be blocked in court. It argued the residents' complaints should have gone to the provincial Farm Practices Review Board instead.
Since Bourque was unable to determine whether Coastal Shell Products is an agricultural operation, she agreed with the company that residents need to file a complaint with the provincial board.
Maisie Rae MacNaughton of the Kent Clean Act Action Committee said the decision is disappointing. She said there was "a lot of hope" in the community that an injunction would offer some relief.
"People came forward, they were vulnerable and told their stories, and it just seems like that wasn't enough," she said.
Maisie Rae McNaughton from the Kent Clear Air Action Committee has been leading the fight to have the plant closed since 2017. (Jacques Poitras)
The Coastal Shell plant heats and dries old lobster and snow-crab shells and shrimp skins that are then ground into a powder that's used for fertilizer and animal feed.
Residents in the community of Richibucto, now part of the newly-formed municipality of Beaurivage, have been fighting to have the plant closed since 2017. They claim the smell is so strong it makes people sick, has made spending time outdoors unbearable and is affecting their physical and mental health.
A nearby elementary school has also kept children indoors due to the smell.
The Department of Environment has extended the company's approval to operate until Aug. 31, 2024. It previously said the decision is contingent on the installation of odour-reducing technology.
McNaughton said there have been no improvements this year, and the foul stench, noise and light pollution from the plant continue to disrupt everyday life.
"It's absolutely ludicrous that we are being forced to fight tooth and nail like this, just to breathe clean air."
A separate civil suit by residents against Coastal Shell and its owners continues to make its way through the courts.
Coastal Shell did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News before publication time.
McNaughton said her group is now preparing to go before the Farm Practices Review Board, and will continue to fight against Coastal Shell.
"It's hard to stay hopeful, but we are."