Canadian community protests stench from crustacean shell-drying plant

The Coastal Shell Products facility.

Residents of Richibucto, New Brunswick, Canada are protesting the acute smells emanating from a crustacean shell processing operation they say are making them sick and ruining their quality of life.

Coastal Shell Products processes lobster, clam, shrimp, and crab shells through a heating and drying process in its 2,800-square-meter facility in Richibucto, producing fertilizer, animal feed, and value-added products such as chitin, chitosan, and glucosamine.

But on Tuesday, 20 June, more than 100 residents staged a protest at city hall demanding action by the municipal council and mayor to reduce the smell from the plant. It is the latest in a year of community action against the seven-year-old business.

“It’s not right that the children can’t go outside and play, and it’s affecting kids in the daycare too,” local resident Marie-Louise Brideau told the New Brunswick Media Co-op. “Families can’t have barbecues.”

The principal of a school 200 feet away from the plant said students complain of headaches, nausea, and coughing as a result of the odors from the plant.

The Kent Clean Air Action Committee, which has advocated for action to reduce the plant’s smell, has also raised issues about health implications from residents inhaling particulate matter emitted by the facility.

“What are the long term health implications of a situation like this?” KCAAC member Marie-Rae McNaughton said.

McNaughton said Coastal Shell Products is in violation of the Clean Air Act of New Brunswick, which prohibits the release of odors that interfere with "the normal enjoyment of life or use or enjoyment of property."

She described the odor, which can be smelled up to 12 kilometers away on some days, as "unlike anything I've smelled before.”

“It smells like rotting lobsters mixed with burnt wires, and there's something in it that makes your eyes burn,” McNaughton said.

On Tuesday, 13 June, McNaughton and the KCAAC delivered a petition to the New Brunswick legislature asking for the province to take action on the issue.

At a hearing on Wednesday, 21 June, the town’s local council discussed the issue, but mayor Arnold Vautour said it’s not clear what legal avenues are available to mitigate the smell.

“We have talked about it and now we’re looking at what our lawyers are telling us about certain things what we can do and what we can’t do, so we’re trying to work with our lawyers to make sure we can do things right,” he told CTV.

Coastal Shell Products, which opened in 2016 as Omera Shells, was actually shut down on 8 June by the New Brunswick Environment Department for failing to properly store shell waste, but it reopened 11 June after it rectified the identified problems, according to the CBC.

The company did not respond to requests for comment from CTV and the CBC.

Photo courtesy of Kent Clean Air Action Committee


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