Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. recently agreed in British Columbia Provincial Court to pay a $300,000 fine for violating the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s air quality bylaw on two dates in November 2016.
The two $150,000 fines are the biggest in Metro Vancouver history.
Source of Problem
Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd entered the organic waste management business in Metro Vancouver in 2009, when it purchased Fraser Richmond Soil and Fibre, which had largely handled landscaping waste since 1993.
Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. received a $5 million grant from the federal Clean Energy Fund to help bankroll its high solids anaerobic digestion facility. It got another $2 million from Metro Vancouver for improvements and $500,000 plus a $1 million loan from the provincial government in 2012.
When in full operation, the composting and anaerobic digestion facility turned region’s organic waste (i..c, curbside collected organic waste as well as leaf and yard waste) into clean, renewable electricity and high quality compost. Statistics for the facility were as follows:
- Over 200,000 metric tonnes of organic materials processed per year;
- 6,500 mWh of clean, renewable electricity generated; and
- Over 180,000 cubic yards of top quality soil products generated per year.
Odour became a major problem at the Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. facility after the district banned food scraps from landfills in 2015. the company began accepting more organic waste and odours emanated from open air windrows.
In 2017 the City of Richmond stopped sending its organic waste to Harvest and chose to divert it to Delta-based Enviro-Smart Organic.
Why did the Facility Close Down?
The operation in Richmond that had consisted of both compositng and anaerobic digestion was shuttered in 2018. At the time the shut down of operations were announced, Stephen Bruyneel, a company spokesperson, stated it was due to regulatory uncertainty. Mr. Bruyneel told the Richmond News that Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. was not willing to make multi-million dollar facility improvements amidst uncertainty surrounding its air quality permit, issued by Metro Vancouver.
In September 2016, Metro Vancouver issued a four-year permit to
Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. on the condition it must take measures to mitigate odours and is bound by new enforcement guidelines.
One odour-mitigation measure in the permit was a new Covered Aerated Static Pile (CASP) Composting System that was to be in place by April, 2019. In the August closure announcement, the company stated it was not willing to install the CASP Composting System.
Another condition in the air permit that the company decided was untenable was the “odour measurement” system listed as a condition. The condition stated that Metro Vancouver employees would determine if odours from the impacting sensitive receptors. The company claimed it was method was unscientific.
Payment of the Fine
Harvest Fraser Richmond Organics Ltd. declared bankruptcy in 2018 and is now under creditor protection. At the time it declared bankruptcy, the company’s accounts payable totaled over $1.6 million. Creditors included a several environmental consulting firms an analytical laboratory.
Ray Robb, Metro Vancouver’s manager of air quality of enforcement, doubts the fine will be paid due the creditor protection the company is still in.
Mr. Robb said Metro Vancouver was to charge the company with dozens of counts of pollution, which carried fines of up to $1 million per day. The district had evidence of pollution from Sept. 1, 2016, to Nov. 16, 2016, as well as the two days noted in the settlement. However, it was decided to pursue charges for only two days in November as it was the day that environmental officers were in the field collecting evidence and coincided when there were many complaints from neighbours and meteorological conditions were stable.
The settlement stipulated that Metro Vancouver allow the company to change its name to 00891775 B.C. Ltd., which the provincial court system will register when posting the Feb. 22, 2019, court order.