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Controversial compost pad holds open house

An open house Jan. 18 at a controversial compost facility – Thorlakson Nature’s Call, east of Airdrie – allowed concerned neighbours the opportunity to take a closer look and ask questions about the operation.
Concerned Neighbours
The management of Thorlakson Nature’s Calls Inc. heard questions and concerns from neighbours during an open house Jan. 18.

An open house Jan. 18 at a controversial compost facility – Thorlakson Nature’s Call, east of Airdrie – allowed concerned neighbours the opportunity to take a closer look and ask questions about the operation. According to General Manager Milton Scott, TNC’s management hoped to convey the message the operation has nothing to hide and is working to reduce odour and address concerns – sparked in part by an odour event Jan. 10, where winds blew a stench into Airdrie. According to Strategic Manager Lindsey Cybulskie, approximately 25 people attended, asking questions of the operation’s management and taking tours of the compost pad. Cybulskie and Scott also prepared a presentation outlining the composting process and addressing what they called “misconceptions and myths” that have circulated online about TNC. “We had an interesting thing today on the tour,” Scott said. “I had some of the closest neighbours in my pickup rather than the bus, and we drove right up beside one of the new rows, and you could smell something, but then we drove and went to the road they lived on, and they all agreed they couldn’t smell anything. I think that’s progress – we’ll have to wait and see.” Both Scott and Cybulskie felt the open house was successful, and said participant feedback shed light on opportunities to improve the operation. Notably, Scott said, the event allowed TNC to communicate to neighbours its preference for direct feedback. Feedback from neighbours allows TNC to address concerns as quickly as possible, he said, while directing complaints elsewhere – Alberta Environment or Rocky View County (RVC) – can slow down the process of addressing issues. “Complain to us first, so we can react to that complaint,” Cybulskie said. “Then, if you feel that we haven’t done anything, contact Alberta Environment next. They are the ones that are overseeing us.” Cybulskie said concerns can be directed by phone to TNC’s office at 403-948-5435, directly to her at 403-827-0853, or to Scott at 403-827-0853. Grievances can also be emailed to milt@tfyinc.com or lindsey@tfyinc.com Following the open house, multiple neighbours said they were in “wait-and-see” mode. Doug Mackenzie, a resident who lives southwest of TNC, said he was pleased the open house included information about future processes to mitigate odour, but still had concerns odour problems could continue. Maxine Bruce, another neighbour, said she felt her questions had been satisfactorily addressed, but was not completely convinced the odour problem would end. “I do think they may [need] more education,” she said. “That would be one of my concerns, is that they’re trying things and we want confidence. We want to see that [stench] is going to be reduced.” Bruce added she did not detect any offensive odour during her time at the facility. Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said he was happy to see TNC was receptive to feedback and, based on the open house, felt the operation was learning and incorporating feedback into its operations. Standing on the property, Brown said he could not smell any offensive odours, and was confident the operation would see odour mitigation come to fruition. “They have a significant amount of commitments they must meet over the next year through the County and through Alberta Environment,” Brown said. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable that the people in charge here recognize the challenges that are in front of them, and they’re gathering the expertise, the people and the learnings to mitigate any kinds of challenges to their neighbours.” Area Coun. Daniel Henn – who arrived late to the open house – was likewise glad TNC held the event, saying it was paramount for the operation to engage with its neighbours. Henn remained confident RVC council had put “stringent conditions” in place for TNC, which he felt would lead to odour mitigation. “I think going forward, that gives us the opportunity to hear from our residents and then be in contact with Thorlakson’s to make sure things go better,” he said. “I just want to be honest and say, nothing’s going to change overnight, but we want to give Thorlakson’s the opportunity to do better.” Henn added he had full confidence TNC would do everything it can to address concerns. “There’s an opinion that they don’t care – I struggle with that,” he said. According to Cybulskie, TNC plans to hold another open house within the next three months, so neighbours can track the operation’s progress at mitigating odour and offer additional feedback.