Air Quality

Harvest Power Organic Odour Issues

Update on Organic Odour Issues in Richmond (2017)
The City has and continues to take decisive actions to ensure Harvest Power eliminates odours from their facility. As of February 28, the City issued the following update on its actions regarding this issue.

19 Facts About the Harvest Power Odour Issues and the City of Richmond’s Actions
Odour issues in Richmond due to Harvest Power’s composting operations in east Richmond are an important concern of the City. Despite the City’s limited jurisdiction, it has been a very active participant seeking to eliminate these odour issues.

Regulatory Authorities

1. The Province of British Columbia (the Province) regulates air emissions per the Environmental Management Act (the Act). The Province delegated this authority to Metro Vancouver to manage solid waste and air emissions in the region. The City does not have any authority under the Act. City staff have met with senior Ministry of Environment and Metro Vancouver staff on multiple occasions and Mayor Brodie has met with the Minister of Environment. The City continues to urge the Province as well as Metro Vancouver to address the ongoing odour issue.

2. After the City repeatedly tried to work with all parties in an attempt to reduce the odours, Harvest Power’s air quality permit was renewed by Metro Vancouver on September 30, 2016. Under the permit, Metro Vancouver can at least temporarily halt the flow of organics material if Harvest Power fails to comply with the terms of the permit.

3. Harvest Power is located on land owned by the Federal Government through the Port of Vancouver. Harvest Power is presently appealing the air quality permit to the Environmental Appeal Board in part on the grounds that provincial and regional regulations do not apply to the facility because it is situated on federal land. The City has no jurisdiction to directly regulate the land on which Harvest Power is located.

4. After reviewing complaints about its ability to enforce the permit, Metro Vancouver has allocated more staff to address the volume of complaints.

5. Odour measurement is not regulated explicitly under the Province’s Act. Only Metro Vancouver has authority under the Act to regulate air quality regionally. In the fall of 2016, the City reiterated to the Province the need to amend the Act to explicitly deal with excessive odours. The Act has not been amended by the Province.

6. Since August 2016 the City has responded to six fire incidents at Harvest Power related to a storage pile of combustible materials. As a result, a Notice of Violation and Order to Comply was issued to Harvest Power. The City’s actions have resulted in the elimination of this additional air quality hazard.

Organic Waste Received at Harvest Power

7. Harvest Power reported in December 2016 that it expected to process 180,000 tonnes of organic waste at the facility for all of 2016. The City has expressed concern regarding the total volume processed as well as the types of materials being received by Harvest Power. The City believes that at its peak, the volume was considerably higher, thus compounding the odour issue.

8. Some members of the public have alleged that human waste and animal carcasses are being treated at the site. Harvest Power and Metro Vancouver have advised that, in line with the conditions of their licenses and per inspections, the facility does not receive any human waste or animal carcasses. City staff have inspected the site and have found no evidence of such default.

9. As a result of the City’s actions and public complaints, Harvest Power has reported publicly that it has temporarily ceased accepting highly odourous materials such as out-of-region waste, seafood and cruise ship waste.

10. Effective January 3, 2017, the City began diverting a portion of its organic waste from Harvest Power to an alternative licensed facility. In addition, through the City’s efforts with Metro Vancouver, Harvest Power has confirmed that they have temporarily reduced volumes of organics being accepted at the facility. Despite previous assurances, Harvest Power indicates that by mid-March they will no longer accept shipments consisting only of food waste.

The City’s Service Agreement with Harvest Power

11. In 2010, the City entered into a Service Agreement with Richmond Soil and Fibre Ltd. (subsequently taken over by Harvest Power) for processing organic waste collected by the City from single-detached homes and duplexes. In 2016, the City delivered 19,500 tonnes of organic waste out of the 180,000 tonnes accepted by Harvest Power.

12. The City recently issued a Notice of Default to Harvest Power resulting from the odour issues. Under the existing Service Agreement, Harvest Power will have 30 days to remedy odour issues to the City’s satisfaction. The City may choose to terminate the agreement if it is not satisfied with Harvest Power’s actions to resolve odour issues and subsequent remedies are insufficient. Termination would ultimately result in redirection of the City’s 19,500 tonnes to an alternate licensed facility.

13. To further monitor Harvest Power’s progress on reducing odours, the City is undertaking testing including independent air sampling throughout the community.

Permit Appeal

14. As noted above, Metro Vancouver’s air quality permit for Harvest Power contains provisions to allow Metro Vancouver to stop Harvest Power from receiving organic material after a number of proven exceedances over a two week period. As a result, Harvest Power has appealed Metro Vancouver’s air quality permit on the grounds that the so-called “sniff test” to detect exceedances is not scientific or precise. The City supports the provisions in the permit that allow Metro Vancouver to eventually stop Harvest Power from receiving organics and is thus a party opposing the appeal filed with the Province’s Environmental Appeal Board. Appeal hearings have yet to be scheduled.

15. Harvest Power recently invited the City and Metro Vancouver to enter into mediation regarding the air quality permit. Mediation would delay the entire process and potentially water down the provision in the permit to stop Harvest Power from receiving organics upon default. The City has no plans to engage in mediation of the appeal with Harvest Power without the ability to immediately stop the odours during the discussion.

16. There have been approximately 24 additional permit appeals from Richmond residents detrimentally affected by the excessive odours.

Community Health and Engagement

17. At the City’s urging, Vancouver Coastal Health assessed the impacts of odours on public health prompting them to state that “while Harvest Power is generating extremely unpleasant odorous compounds, the air emissions from the operation are unlikely to cause health effects in addition to ones triggered by the offensive smell.”

18. The City maintains this up-to-date and informative webpage to provide access to all reports reviewed by Council and other related information.

19. At the City’s urging for more transparency of complaints received by Metro Vancouver, Metro Vancouver launched a webpage detailing complaints, including emissions reports, maps for where complaints come from and details on permit violations. See: www.metrovancouver.org/services/Permits-regulations-enforcement/harvest-power-richmond/Pages/default.aspx

Additional background information is included in the PDF Document Memo to City Council from January 6, 2017.

A previous PDF Document Memo to City Council provided information on City actions as of November 25, 2016.

The City believes these actions work towards a long term solution to the odour issues while bringing short term relief. City Council and staff remain focused on results and will continue to update the community with new information through media and on this website.

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Metro Vancouver - File an Air Quality Complaint
Metro Vancouver is responsible for regulating air quality within the region, a role delegated by the province of BC. They also have the responsibility to receive complaints. If you have detected odours in your home or neighbourhood and suspect it is from the Harvest Power organics facility in Richmond, it is important you file your complaint with Metro Vancouver - high quality complaints from citizens will support further investigation and enforcement. As well, report your complaints to Harvest Power. Please be sure to note where and when you smelled the odours and also try to describe them.

Concerned residents are encouraged to file a complaint about odour, dust or other air contaminants with Metro Vancouver, as they are the jurisdiction which regulates air quality. Through utility rates, member municipalities pay Metro Vancouver for this level of service, so it is important to bear this responsibility in mind given the matter of the current Harvest Power odours in Richmond.

Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver has indicated the most beneficial complaints are timely, identify the date/time and location of the odour, and describe the odour, its intensity and its impact. Visit Metro Vancouver's webpage for tips on making a good complaint.

To file a complaint with Metro Vancouver, you can:

As Metro Vancouver also has a contract with Harvest Power for composting of organics waste, it can engage Harvest Power to immediately address the odour issue. Residents are encouraged to write to Metro Vancouver to urge them to take action on this issue.

See more information regarding the total amount of complaints received by Metro Vancouver; the general location of complaints received to date; enforcement actions and reports related to Harvest Power by visiting their dedicated complaints and enforcement webpage.

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Harvest Power - Engage Directly With Them
Harvest Power has created a dedicated website for their Air Quality Permit to update the public on its activities. You can also call Harvest Power at 604-836-8387.

Harvest has also established a Community Liaison Committee whose purposes include hearing community concerns and sharing information about Harvest's operations and plans. The last meeting was held Thursday, December 8, 2016 (7:00 - 9:30 p.m.)

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Ministry of Environment
The Province has delegated authority to Metro Vancouver to regulate air quality. Share your concerns with the Minister responsible, Mary Polak, at env.minister@gov.bc.ca or your local member of the legislative assembly (MLA).

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The City of Richmond Has Been Active
The City of Richmond has been very active working to eliminate odour issues from Harvest Power's operations - despite not having regulatory control over air quality issues in the region. Below are links to news releases and reports:

News Releases

2017-Feb-28  City issues Notice of Default to organic waste processor 
2016-Nov-15 Richmond seeks to join in appeals of Harvest Power's air quality permit
2016-Nov-11 Metro Vancouver must address odour problem
2016-Oct-25 Richmond Council demands end to organics odour problem

Actions Endorsed by City Council

Date Link to Report via Meeting Minutes Meeting and Agenda Item #
2016-Nov-14 Harvest Power Permit Update City Council Meeting

Agenda item 19
2016-Oct-17 Harvest Power Air Quality Permit Review General Purposes Committee

Agenda item 2 / GP-19
2016-Sep-19 Harvest Power Draft Air Quality Permit Update General Purposes Committee

Agenda item 3 / GP-117
2016-Jul-11 Odour Management from Organic Recycling Facilities Update City Council Meeting

Agenda item 11 / CNCL-112
2015-Dec-07 Harvest Power Air Quality Permit Review General Purposes Committee

Agenda item 3 / GP-16
2015-Nov-9 Odour Management from Organic Waste Management Facilities in Richmond and Surrounding Areas City Council Meeting

Agenda item 12 / CNCL-126Harvest Power's Air Quality website