“From what I’m hearing, I think that the amount of opposition that is against this project, it won’t go there,” Mayor Hilda Whelan told a crowd of over 100 people at a public information session last Thursday.
It was the second week in a row the town asked residents to come out and hear from council representatives. Whelan provided an update on the town’s actions in relation to Metro Environmental Services’ proposal to operate a commercial compositing facility that would process organic waste to create organic fertilizer.
The company is proposing to use mink farm offal and carcasses, chickens and other dead birds, poultry feathers and slaughterhouse offal from other forms of livestock. The proposed location on Route 100 — also known as the Argentia Access Road — is approximately 2 kilometres from the town and three kilometres from the Trans Canada Highway. The land in question is already designated as agricultural property.
The mayor believes the business model needs to be tested elsewhere before it’s set up anywhere close to her town or any other in Newfoundland and Labrador. Amongst the concerns raised at the meeting was the smell such a facility would generate, fire hazards, and the environmental impact.
Multiple residents suggested businesses would be negatively impacted. A potential hotel development in the area is reportedly on hold awaiting the decision from the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Whelan has spoken with Environment Minister Perry Trimper and was told his department is well aware of the town’s concerns. The department has been inundated with calls and emails about the proposal, with the minister due to render a decision by June 25. The deadline for submissions is June 15.
The mayor said Trimper could not meet with the town, as the proponent is entitled to a fair assessment, and such a meeting could jeopardize that.
Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Sherry Gambin-Walsh, who also attended last Thursday’s meeting, voiced her own opposition to the proposal. She questioned it’s suitability for anywhere on the Avalon Peninsula.
“I’m very much opposed to this site, and I have been lobbying Minister Trimper every single day — he’s really tired of me,” she told the crowd. “I just think two kilometres from the proposed business or site like this is absolutely ridiculous.”
One person at the meeting suggested the Heart’s Content barrens would be a more suitable area for the proposed facility.
Whelan said she remains concerned the proponent will next look to set up in close proximity to a community that doesn’t have a strong council who will do as Whitbourne has and speak out against the facility.
“If they were to put that behind Blaketown or anywhere surrounding us, it’s just as bad as if it’s on Argentia Road,” she said. “As mayor of the town, I’m obligated to do what I can to keep it out of our town, which I will fight until the bitter end. And if at the end of the day they propose the site, then with all gloves off we will fight it again. If it takes legal, whatever it takes, I am determined that this stays out of our community and far away.”