Brad Goodreau wishes someone would have told him.
The Dawn-Euphemia resident is upset after a cloud of dust from bio solids spread on field near his home, enveloped his vehicle with his kids inside and caused a stink around his home for over a week.
Goodreau and his family have lived on Huff Side Road near the border with Kent County for several years. In mid-October, he came home from picking his children up from school to see a cloud of fine dust. “The cloud was from the bush to the concession road and you could see it from Lambton Line,” he says. “You could smell it, and well, you were eating it…you tasted it on your tongue. It was salty and yucky and gross.”
Goodreau says he took a drive on the windy day to see just what was going on and found LaSalle Bio Solids spreading treatment on a field about 500 meters away from his back door.
Goodreau did some searching and found bio solid is human waste made into a fine granular substance which is about one third of the cost of regular fertilizer. While it is less expensive, there is a downside – the smell can be overpowering.
“It’s cheap and it’s legal but no one told me it was going to be used. I might not want Toronto sewage here,” he says.
Goodreau isn’t the only one who has raised concerns about the decades long practice. When LaSalle Bio Solids first began using the pellets in the Florence area about three years ago, local residents complained of the stench as well.
And in Warwick, the fire department was called in several years ago after several residents were sick from the smell. “People in the community were vomiting and leaving their own homes,” says Mayor Todd Case who went out to investigate himself and found “it was all you could do not to throw up.”
The municipality talked with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, which regulates the application, and LaSalle Bio Solids and found it was the way the fertilizer was being applied – if it is worked into the ground instead of applied on top, the smell decreases dramatically.
That wasn’t the case near Goodreau’s property where he raises heritage pigs and chickens for local consumption. He pointed out the granular product still lying on the winter wheat field, just meters away from his own winter wheat.
“Everyone is really good at branding theses things; they’ve changed the name from human sludge to bio solids but nothing has changed.
“I don’t see how that can ever be reasonable.”
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad gets a number of complaints each year about the practice but says the municipality can do nothing. It refers people to the ministry.
MOECC spokesperson Kate Jordan, in an email says between April 2014 and March 31, 2015 the ministry had about 48 complaints about the “application of non-agricultural source materials including bio solids.”
Jordan says residents should be calling the Spills Action Centre, however farmers and companies using the product aren’t required to post the number anywhere on the land being applied with the fertilizer.
Goodreau says he went to the Ministry of Agriculture first and had planned to lodge a complaint with the MOECC as well.
While the product has been legal to use for decades, Goodreau wonders if people have thought the practice through.
“It’s all approved; he’s allowed to do it if he has the paper work…but I don’t know about it.
“How many people would say yes if you said ‘Would you be okay to take Toronto waste…we’ll put it on your front lawn where you can smell it for a week….Nobody ever asked me. It’s my waterway, it’s my farm.
“Don’t you wish too we had a choice with any of this stuff?”
Goodreau says the company could have eased his mind just by notifying him what they were spreading and when.
Jordan says “notification to nearby neighbours can be included as a condition of approval and is considered a best management practice that is endorsed by the government, though it is not a requirement under the Nutrient Management Act.”
Broad thinks perhaps it should be. “A little notification would go a long way with the neighbouring properties and the municipalities.”