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Smell troubles treatment facility

Catalyst Paper representatives cant figure out problem

Bad odours coming from Catalyst Paper Corporation’s effluent treatment plant continue to generate complaints from Townsite residents.

Sarah Barkowski, Catalyst’s environment manager at the Powell River division, reported on the issue during the April 24 community stakeholder meeting. She said that since the November meeting, the mill received five odour complaints. For all complaints, the wind direction was from the west and there were elevated TRS (total reduced sulphur) readings at the helipad for all cases as well.

Barkowski said the mill hasn’t been able to answer the question of why the primary clarifier is septic, which, she added, is disappointing and frustrating. “I felt that I was on the pathway to having my first ever stakeholder meeting where I could say to you, ‘We haven’t had any community complaints since our last meeting,’ but we didn’t even come close,” she said. “To go through the winter months and have five odour complaints is not good at all.”

The mill called in its effluent treatment plant expert, who suggested the problem could be caused by plugged and closed tubes on secondary clarifiers and a buildup of biofilm on weirs, launder and walls.

The mill took action on the suggestions, Barkowski said, cleaning out the plugged tubes. However, they have since become plugged again, so the mill is working to unplug all of them. It plans on cleaning the walls once a safety protocol has been initiated. “I’m hopeful that we’ve made some progress on this,” she said.

The mill has also made progress on burning piles of stockpiled sludge, the source of a number of odour complaints from businesses in the area last summer. The mill has made a number of changes in the way it stores sludge when the power boiler is shut down. Barkowski said she hopes the stockpiled sludge is gone before the next shut down of the power boiler, which is scheduled for the second part of June.

One of the participants said there has been a noticeable increase in odours in Townsite. He said they sometimes last all day and frequently for more than a day.

Another participant said he could call the mill every other week with odour complaints, adding it’s a burden for property owners.

He also expressed concerns about co-treatment, a proposal to treat the City of Powell River’s sewage at the mill’s plant. “You guys are great papermakers, but I have no idea what makes you think you can go into the septic effluent treating business, mixing it in with that stuff that you’re having problems with already and not stinking us out of our community,” he said. “You guys work there, we live there.”

He has been looking at selling his home, he said, but “now it look likes I’m not going to be able to if the city is going to go ahead and force this co-treatment initiative down our throats. This is completely ridiculous. We are sick and tired of the smell in the Townsite.”

Paul Schachter, the facilitator of the meeting, pointed out residents were doing the stakeholders and the company a disservice by not making a phone call and reporting it.

David Hebert, a ministry of environment representative who participated in the meeting over the phone, agreed with Schachter. “If there are concerns, complain, because the ministry also does receive the complaints and I do discuss it with Sarah. It’s worth your while.”

Schachter also pointed out that the company’s newly released sustainability report documented five instances of non-compliance with the company’s effluent treatment permit. He asked if any of those were related to the odour incidents.

Barkowski said no. She explained the bugs in the treatment process became unhealthy and “didn’t do their job.” The company had an expert investigate the impact chemicals used in the mill had on the bugs. She said the non-compliances were tied back to the use of a chemical that is no longer used in the operation.