Efforts to get to the bottom of a stench that has occasionally wafted across Moncton's north end neighbourhood have led to a provincial investigation, a task force and two compost operations hiring consultants to review their operations.
Steps were outlined to Moncton councillors Tuesday evening that offered no definitive answer to where the smell has originated.
Coun. Dave Steeves, who represents the area, said he received numerous complaints last year.
"There just needs to be some action taken," Steeves said after the council meeting. "We cannot go through another summer like we had last summer with the smell."
Both Southeast Eco360 and TransAqua operate composting facilities in the area and have drawn the attention of the city and province.
Eco360 operates a landfill off Berry Mills Road. TransAqua treats sewage from Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview at a plant along the Petitcodiac River and hauls "solids" from the effluent to the compost operation near the landfill.
But both say inspections by the province have found they are in compliance with their operating requirements. Both have separately hired consultants to review their operations. Both are part of a newly formed task force with the city and the province.
City staff say the province is preparing a form residents can fill out to report the odour that will also help track weather patterns.
Roland LeBlanc, interim executive director of the Southeast Regional Service Commission, said Eco360 examined its operation last year after getting more complaints than normal.
"We investigated all of our processes to see if anything had changed that could have caused this increase," LeBlanc said.
"We could not find anything. No changes were made to our operations that could have caused these stronger orders. We're essentially operating the same way as we have for the last 25 years."
LeBlanc said based on the concerns last year, Eco360 stopped turning its outdoor compost piles in October. The site has been visited "a number of times" by inspectors with the province's environment department. He said they found no concerns with the operations.
He said Eco360 hired a consulting firm to review its operations. LeBlanc said the consultant also reached the conclusion that nothing had changed that would cause the increased smell.
The TransAqua compost site has been operating since 2005.
Upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant in Riverview led to a 15 to 35 per cent increase in material transported to the compost site near Moncton's north end.
Kevin Rice, TransAqua's general manager, said TransAqua's compost site was approved by the provincial government and has not been notified of any violations of its operating conditions. It will also hire a consultant to examine its operation and recommend ways to avoid "fugitive odours, the ones that get away."
He outlined several possible options that would cut back or end composting at the site.
Rice said one short-term option would be to truck the material to another facility such as one in Miramichi. Another option would be to incinerate the material.
He said one long-term option would be to add an anaerobic digestion process. That would involve micro-organisms breaking down biodegradable material in an enclosed space in the absence of oxygen.
Rice said it could take years to design and implement such a system, with a possible cost in the $17 million to $20 million range.
"It's expensive," Rice said.
Both Steeves and Coun. Bryan Butler, who also represents the north end, said they'd like to see someone take ownership of the issue and get more done soon.
"I'm glad there's a task force, I really am, but I think that there's got to be immediate solutions that are trying to be put forward right now," Butler said.