North Cowichan Councillor Joyce Behnsen. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Chemainus odour debate gets heated in North Cowichan

Coun. Joyce Behnsen accused of spreading “misinformation”

A letter from the province in response to an ongoing odour issue in Chemainus led to lively debate in the Municipality of North Cowichan’s council chambers.

Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman was responding to council’s concerns with the odours allegedly coming from Coast Environmental Ltd., a waste and compost treatment facility in Chemainus.

Heyman said in the letter that odour management and associated controls are included in a review currently underway as part of Coast Environmental’s application for the new Organic Matter Recycling Regulation permit from his ministry.

The facility is located in North Cowichan, but jurisdiction for its operations is shared among a number of authorities, with no clear guidelines on which authority is directly responsible to deal with excessive odours, or even what constitutes excessive odours.

While Coast Environmental’s operation is located in North Cowichan, which issues it an annual business licence to operate, the Cowichan Valley Regional District is responsible for issuing its recycler licence and the Ministry of Environment issues the permit for the facility to compost soil.

But Coun. Joyce Behnsen said she believes North Cowichan could be having more of an influence in dealing with the issue than it is exercising.

“More work can be done at this level (of government) and we shouldn’t just be handing this up to the province to deal with,” she said.

Behnsen said North Cowichan Mayor Lefebure, who is also chairman of the CVRD, should be doing more to deal with the issue.

“The smell is making people sick and ruining the reputation of this community,” she said.

“This has been going on for six years and that’s too long.”

Lefebure said “it’s not that simple” and that “spreading misinformation” is no way to deal with the issue.

“Large improvements have already been made to deal with the odours from the facility,” he said.

Coun. Kate Marsh said she “feels sad” the debate had come to this point

“I can’t believe a councillor here is saying that nothing is being done,” she said.

“We have this letter from the minister and I don’t want the public thinking that North Cowichan and the CVRD are doing nothing. You can say your opinion at this table, but it has to be based on facts.”

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