News Provincial Southern Alberta

Wheatland residents protest against EarthRenew restart

A group of rural residents met on March 13 to protest the possible restart of EarthRenew, a plant that converts cow manure to organic fertilizer. Wheatland’s Municipal Planning Committee will consider a development permit for the plant on April 13. (Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

STRATHMORE – Rural residents met on Saturday to protest the proposed restart of EarthRenew, a company with a patented process for converting cow manure into organic fertilizer at a plant north of Strathmore.

EarthRenew is located at Cattleland Feedyards, near the intersection of Hwy 564 and Hwy 817. A development permit was issued for the plant in 2006, but the company later went into receivership and stopped operating. The company and its equipment and patents were purchased by a new owner now moving to restart production.

This has led to opposition by nearby residents. They say that when the plant was operating in the past, it produced unbearable odours. Some also have concerns about water use at the facility, saying it could reduce the groundwater table and make their own wells less productive.

Wanting to make their stance seen and heard, a group of rural residents met in vehicles in the afternoon of March 13 on Hwy. 564, next to the plant. They then proceeded as a convoy south on Hwy. 817, travelling through Strathmore, moving together to the Wheatland County office off Hwy 1.

“The plant creates noxious odours and will impact our land value,” said Berle Hebbes, one of the residents living near the plant, at the protest.

Outside the county office, Hebbes described to about 80 onlookers by loudspeaker his opposition to EarthRenew’s restart, including questions about the proponent, how the application is being handled and the potential impacts of the plant.

According to a March 3 letter by Suzanne Hayes, a Wheatland County development officer, posted online, the plant will have “state-of-the-art” equipment installed to mitigate odour, including baghouses, cyclones, scrubbers “and/or” UV light-based reactors. The dryer stack will also be increased in height by 4.6 m (15 ft), to 24.4 m (about 81 ft.).

“This is a substantial upgrade to the odour-mitigating equipment historically deployed at the site which only used a baghouse to reduce particulate,” Hayes wrote in the letter.

The plant will employ eight to 10 full-time staff once operational, the letter states.

EarthRenew already has approval by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), still in effect. However, the letter states an amendment will be submitted in the next three to six months to address air emissions from the plant, which will include an air quality impact assessment, an odour management plan and a waste management plan.

A new development permit for the plant will be considered by Wheatland County’s Municipal Planning Committee (MPC) on April 13. Residents may submit written comments on the proposal to the county’s development department that will be presented along with the application in the MPC meeting no later than April 1. All submissions will become part of the public record.

If the commission grants approval, there would be conditions created to mitigate concerns and potentially, a time-limited development permit could be issued, explained Reeve Amber Link, in an email.

By Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Strathmore Times