The City of Hamilton and its contractors have been charged over an infamous stench that forced the closure of the municipal compost plant more than two years ago.
The province laid the charges —Debbie Lapointe helped investigators sniff out the source of what one official jokingly labelled “the Debbie smell” because of the frequency of her complaints.
“They used to hang out with me on my porch,” said the McAnulty neighbourhood resident, who carefully tracked dozens of odour incidents and times in a special logbook over several years. “We’d stand there and chit-chat until all of a sudden they’d get a really strong whiff and say, ‘Whoa, now I understand.’”
The city shuttered its Burlington Street plant after worsening odours in June 2018 spurred complaints about burning throats and nausea. The stink was bad in McAnulty — but it was reported as far away as downtown and Gage Park.
The plant was emptied, cleaned and eventually reopened with new capacity limits. It no longer accepts yard waste.
The province spent more than two years investigating the odour problems — which stretched back years — before charging the city and related contractors Nov. 25 under the Environmental Protection Act.
The city says it “fully co-operated” with the probe and has received a February court summons to answer to a single charge of “permitting the discharge of a contaminant” — in this case, odour — that could cause an “adverse effect.”
Lapointe still has vivid memories of those “adverse effects.”
“It made you feel sick. Sometimes I would get a burning feeling in my throat,” recalled Lapointe, who started regularly reporting odours to both the city and province as far back as 2016.
Lapointe was contacted by an investigator from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks for a statement in June 2018, shortly after the latest wave of complaints triggered the plant shutdown.
Two years later, Lapointe said she doesn’t much care about the outcome of the charges — but she would be interested in hearing a better explanation of what caused the stench.
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