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Delta wants action on compost facility, again

Delta has very limited direct control over the composting operation, according to staff
GFL composting in East Ladner
A Delta staff report notes the Environmental Appeal Board decision affected Metro Vancouver's regulatory tools to address odorous air contaminants emitted from the GFL compost facility.

The City of Delta will ask the provincial environment ministry for a full audit of the GFL compost facility in East Ladner as well as an amendment to the Environmental Management Act to define odorous air contaminants.

Delta will also ask GFL Environmental Inc. representatives to attend a meeting of council to provide an update on facility operations and efforts to address odour complaints, as well as plans to engage Delta residents regarding community impacts of the organics composting facility.

Those were recommendations approved by council at their Sept. 27 council meeting as odour complaints about the facility continued this year despite a multi-million enclosure project, which was supposed to address the problem.

Metro Vancouver issued an air quality permit for the new facility in 2018, paving the way for a transition to a fully-enclosed composting facility, which was completed in September 2020.

Complaints decreased for a while following the opening, however, this June both Metro Vancouver and Delta began receiving more complaints from residents in East Ladner.

Between June and July 2021, there were approximately 200 complaints submitted to Metro Vancouver.

A report to council notes that based on the observations of Delta and Metro staff, as well as information provided by GFL representatives, the odour issues over the summer appear to have arisen from odorous material being stored outside. 

Delta’s city manager issued a letter to the company requiring odour issues to be promptly and effectively addressed. 

GFL's response described a number of remedial actions taken, including addressing some deficiencies in the new composting building, optimizing the process, redirecting food waste to another facility as an  interim measure, and hauling residual large pieces screened to a compost facility in the Interior. 

The 72nd Street operation also committed to work with Metro Vancouver to engage neighbouring residents.

“Despite these recent improvements, and Delta's understanding that the fully-enclosed facility would resolve odour issues and obviate any need for raw or partially-processed compost materials to be stored outside, concerns continue that the GFL Compost Facility will generate odorous materials that affect the neighbouring community, particularly during the summer months. Staff are therefore recommending further action to ensure adequate measures and protocols are in place to avoid future odour impacts,” the Delta staff report adds.

During construction of the new facility, GFL and a number of local residents appealed the air quality permit to the BC Environmental Appeal Board. 

The report notes that a decision of the Environmental Appeal Board, released this March, made a number of revisions to the permit, including the deletion of terms relying on the observations of an

“Approved Person” and all references to monitoring, measuring or otherwise using “odour units” or “odorous air contaminants.”

The revisions significantly impacted Metro Vancouver's ability to monitor and regulate the compost facility based on the emission of odorous air contaminants, the report notes.

Metro Vancouver has applied for a judicial review of the Environmental Appeal Board's decision.

In describing Metro Vancouver at Monday’s council meeting, Mayor George Harvie, who wrote to the regional district recently requesting a full audit under the facility site licence, including the types and quantities of incoming materials and storage practices, said, “All of a sudden they’re invisible.”

Council agreed with his motion to also request a meeting with the regional district’s air quality division as well as Metro chair Sav Dhaliwal.