Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Compost company can't find a home

Operator frustrated over roadblocks

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The compost may have hit the proverbial fan for one local company that has one week left to relocate piles and piles of organic waste.

Manitoba Conservation officials told Samborski Garden Supplies to wind down its composting operations and move all of the compost material off their McGillivray Boulevard property by Sept. 1. The landscape company, which also picks up food and yard waste from Winnipeg grocers, hotels, schools, homes and businesses, composts an estimated 100 tonnes of organic waste every week that would otherwise contribute to harmful gases and contaminants if sent to a landfill.

Provincial and city officials say the business has prompted hundreds of odour complaints from nearby Whyte Ridge residents. Conservation officials can't give the company an environmental licence because the property is not zoned for such a large compost operation.

Lenn Samborski, who runs the 90-year-old family business alongside relatives, said he knows the current site is not ideal for a large composting operation, but the company has nowhere else to go. He denies his compost operation smells and said the odour comes from the Brady Road landfill where the city dumps bio-solids.

Samborski said he tried to relocate to a plot of land just west of the landfill, but the RM of Macdonald twice denied his application. Macdonald Reeve Rodney Burns said officials decided the compost smell could cause problems for nearby residents of Waverley West and that "it wasn't an appropriate place" for a compost facility.

Samborski said he was in talks with the city to relocate the composting business to the Brady Road landfill earlier this year, but his lawyers told him not to sign the draft lease agreement because of the cost and the terms. Samborski said he's frustrated because his business provides a valuable service and claims government officials are in effect trying to shut down the "only game in town."

Unlike other cities, Winnipeg does not have municipal food and yard waste collection.

"I could probably propose a nuclear plant at Portage and Main and have better co-operation and get it up faster than a composting facility," Samborski said. "(Elsewhere) in Canada, the U.S., the world is light years ahead of us. But here, all we get is roadblock after roadblock and bureaucracy. And we're getting nowhere fast."

Earlier this week, a 2009 waste-composition study released through a Freedom of Information request revealed that more than one-quarter of all trash Winnipeggers generate is food waste, which contributes to methane gas and the toxic liquid released by landfills.

Winnipeggers are among the worst recyclers in the country, with diversion rates hovering around 17 per cent. Reducing food waste is expected to be a key part of Winnipeg's new waste-management strategy, which will be unveiled in early September.

Charleswood Coun. Paula Havixbeck said the city is still willing to work with Samborski if he is interested in negotiating terms of the lease. She said the current situation is unfortunate, since Winnipeg needs to do more organic composting.

Havixbeck said she's probably received about 10 complaints this week about the smell from the compost operation.

"It's too bad it's where it's at because the city definitely needs an organic composting solution," Havixbeck said. "We need to divert more from landfill than we are."

Dan McInnis, assistant deputy minister of provincial climate change and environmental protection, said the province initially told Samborski Garden Supplies to stop accepting new compost material last September. Since then, he said the company has been working with the city to deliver new material to Winnipeg's composting site for leaves and trees.

McInnis said the province has tried to help the company mitigate the odours, since compost has to have the right mix of ingredients and be turned often to keep the "rotten egg smell" at bay. He said he expects Samborski to meet the Sept. 1 deadline.

"His operation has grown to such a large business that site is no longer suitable for this operation," he said. "He hasn't told us what his plans are."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2011 A5

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