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Lab City resident fed up with odour from treatment plant

Gerry Beson's backyard, with the wastewater treatment plant in view.
Gerry Beson's backyard, with the wastewater treatment plant in view.

Gerry Beson of Labrador City can see the towns waste water treatment plant from his deck. But this summer he has been smelling it more than looking at it.

He has lived at that location for about 15 years.

“I would get the odour from the plant once in a blue moon," Beson told the Aurora. "It didn't last a long time, and you could live with it."

However, in the last couple of years, he said, the odour has become more frequent, and more annoying. Last year it would happen several times a month and it would last from between half an hour or a couple of hours.

"This year it's the worst it's ever been," Beson said. "It started in May, but in June it was so bad I called and complained, and started marking it down on the calendar."

Beson says on the 12th it occurred at three different times. Then it happened again on five occasions over the next ten days.

Beson says on the 28th friends were over, and they planned to sit out on the deck to enjoy the good summer evening.

"The stink was so bad, we had to move inside, and close the windows," he said.

He complained to the Town of Labrador City, and they are looking into it, according to Mayor Karen Oldford.

"First of all, nothing has changed at the operation, the staff is well-trained, the equipment is up to date," she says.

Oldford says there has been a change in the pattern of prevailing winds, and that seems to be the culprit.

"Winds usually blew away from the town but now they blow more often towards the town," she told the Aurora. "We've consulted with the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Environment, and have applied for funding of up to $4 million to make improvements to the facility. That is to bring the operation up to new federal standards for wastewater disposal, but there's no guarantee it will help the odour problem."

Oldford visited the area in question and agrees that going outside for those residents affected isn't an option when the odour prevails, and says that's why they've been working hard on the issue.

For Gerry Beson it's like being told it's not nice, but the problem is a change in wind and you are going to have to live with it.

"I hope they continue to look at every aspect of the problem and maybe discover something that will help reduce the odour," he told the Aurora.

Since the visit from the mayor, he has been in touch on social media, but says he has not had anyone come to him personally to discuss the matter. Beson encourages residents in the area to register complaints with the town anytime they are affected by the odour. He's been told to call the fire department when the problem occurs, and says the fire chief has contacted him to discuss that.

"The more people speak out the better chance it will get more attention," he says.

Beson also finds it unusual that the winds seem to have shifted noticeably in the last two years.

There is a playground close by, he says, and it's an issue that needs to be studied.

For his part, he now plans to contact other communities to see if they have this kind of problem and if so how they've dealt with it.

"I'm also going to try and see if I can keep an eye on the winds when it happens, there is a seaplane base with a wind sock I can see from my house, so I plan to take pictures of that whenever the odour is strong" he told the Aurora.

Meanwhile during the visit from the Aurora there was no noticeable odour, and Beson says it has diminished in recent weeks. But he says residents have to keep on top of it, and let the Town know when the odour returns.

Mayor Oldford, for her part, says residents are encouraged to report such incidents.

Both sides hope this year’s problem is an anomaly, but at the same time are willing to work to eliminate it to the best of their ability.

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