Helping clear Orgaworld air
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
While residents upset with odours coming from a south London recycling facility shared their frustrations with councillors, it is the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) that local politicians are hoping hears those cries.
During a special meeting of the Planning and Environment Committee on Tuesday (Nov. 13), nearly two dozen speakers — out of a crowd of about 50 in the public gallery — shared their thoughts with councillors around the odours emanating from the Orgaworld Canada Ltd. facility. The vast majority of those opinions were firmly against the efforts being made by Orgaworld to correct the smells those residents described as unacceptable, stinky, horrible, life altering and numerous others.
One of those speakers, Robert Scott, seemed to sum up the feelings of many residents. Scott, who has lived with his wife Paulette on Westminster Drive — one kilometre south of Orgaworld — for 30 years, said he was speaking not just for his family, but all those in the Shaver and Brockley area, approximately 130 homes.
“Our quality of life has been seriously impacted for the last five years because of Orgaworld. We have had to leave our deck numerous times because of the horrible smell from Orgaworld,” Scott said. “It seems we can’t escape that awful smell. This past summer has been the worst by far in five years, even after the big fix. We deserve a better quality of life.”
Various speakers echoed Scott with concerns ranging from the impact the smell coming from Orgaworld has on area property values, individual health, and the success of local businesses.
Stuart Kernohan, owner/operator of Lumberteria Home Hardware on Wellington Road South, directly north of Orgaworld, spoke to that impact and what he felt the solution might be.
“Many times customers have come into the store and flat out said, ‘What is that stench out there?’ We immediately walk out into the parking lot, point to the south, and say it is coming from that (smoke) stack there,” Kernohan said. “I believe a bylaw would only enforce what the city would really intend to maintain in the quality of life in the area of south London. I would stress and hope the committee would seriously look at a bylaw.”
The committee accepted a staff report on the issues and obstacles around finding a solution for the odour problem, but fell short of calling for a licensing bylaw. What it did support was a pair of staff recommendations: one, to have the city staff become more involved — particularly in a technological sense — with the Orgaworld Public Liaison Committee; and two, lobby the MOE to become more actively involved in the situation.
Mayor Joe Fontana said he recognized the efforts of Orgaworld to correct the odour problem, but that the company needs to understand the “anger and frustration” that is being expressed by the area residents. Fontana was also one who called on the MOE to take a bigger role in finding a solution.
"The status quo is unacceptable. We can’t go on with complaints coming in each and every day. But I will tell you right now; the MOE should do its job,” Fontana said. “The province has the jurisdiction, has all the authority to do whatever it wants. I think the city has a responsibility . . . I am not about to take full responsibility for another government that all of the sudden lands this on our shoulders.”
Several councillors spoke with frustration about MOE, which was invited to participate in the meeting, but failed to send a representative. Jay Stanford, director environmental programs and solid waste, said he couldn’t defend MOE not attending the meeting, but that the ministry has been “very active” in the situation, even “more active than I have seen them in other areas of waste management.”
Still, members were eager to express their frustration with MOE’s failure to attend the meeting, including committee chair and Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill.
"The thing I am really concerned about is all the players involved in this are here, except for the Ministry of Environment. It really bothers me that they wouldn’t bring someone here to at least hear what you folks (in the gallery) have to say,” Polhill said. “They’re the ones who can really put some pressure on; make them do the job they are supposed to be doing and they’re not.”
Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan agreed with Polhill and added he believed that while council is not all the way to supporting a bylaw, it is clear the public has legitimate concerns around this issue. While saying the city’s plan to become more involved is the right thing to do, he also called on the MOE to become more involved in finding a solution.
“The very people who are in charge of enforcement and rules and regulations is the Ministry of Environment. We have a situation in which the city is being asked to fill a role that is clearly their responsibility,” Swan said. “It seems that the voice of the community of London is not being heard and that the Ministry of Environment is doing the least in helping resolve this issue.”
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