Intervenor: Vol 25. No 3 & 4 July-December 2000

Mushroom composting facility fixes odour problem

Last year CELA represented two residents at a hearing before the Normal Farm Practices Board in an effort to get a mushroom composting facility to install aerated floor technology and biofilter technology to eliminate and reduce the discharge of odours. (See Intervenor v.24 no.4, Can Agri-Business take a hint from the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board?.)

The witnesses who testified at the hearing described the odours as "horrible," "putrid," "enough to make you gag" and compared them to rotting animal carcasses. In its decision, the Board noted that witnesses had vomited as result of the odours and their lives were "certainly detrimentally affected."

The Board, however, reluctantly found that the composting facility's operation met the definition of normal farm practice as aerated floor technology and biofilters in Ontario was still at an experimental state. At that time, only one commercial mushroom producer in Ontario was using an aerated floor and even that aerated floor formed only a small part of the total production of that facility.

However, the Board was extremely critical of the operation practices. In rendering its decision, the Board stated ...

"We are disappointed that the mushroom industry in Ontario does not appear to take a leading role it the development of technology that would reduce the production of anaerobic gases. We strongly urge the mushroom industry to expend the money that is necessary to develop aerated floors and biofilter in mushroom production within Ontario. Otherwise, the entire industry may be adversely affected by a future ruling of this Board which may conclude that the standard of normal farm practice has shifted from convention Phase I production to aerated floor.

The following year, the Co-op sought to expand its operation and applied for a site plan amendment. The proposed amendment raised numerous concerns for the planners at Brant County who sought additional information from the Co-op. The Co-op, in turn, appealed the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board and CELA intervened on behalf of Ms. Pat Gunby, the resident who lived closest to the facility.

Shortly after the commencement of the hearing the Board requested the parties to try and mediate a settlement. After four days of negotiation, it was agreed that the Co-op's site plan amendment could be approved subject to a number of terms and conditions, including an agreement to install aerated floor technology in bunkers. The installation of the aerated floor technology will cost the Co-op approximately $1.5 million dollars. In addition, the Co-op agreed to construct the bunkers to accommodate biofilters in the future. The Co-op is the first operation to install aerated floor technology inside bunkers in Ontario. The settlement goes a significant way towards improving operating standards for mushroom composting facilities in Ontario.

Ramani Nadarajah is a lawyer at CELA