Of­fal plant an aw­ful mess

For­mer em­ployee de­scribes prop­erty as shame­ful; town wants build­ing de­mol­ished

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

Gary Butt re­mem­bers his last work­day at the old of­fal plant in Car­bon­ear.

Prior to shut­ting down the equip­ment and lock­ing up the sta­dium-sized build­ing at 71 Lower South­side Road, he placed his work boots and cov­er­alls in his locker, think­ing the shut­down would only be tem­po­rary.

But more than a decade later, Butt, who’s now 57, has no al­lu­sions about ever again work­ing at the site.

The steel and con­crete build­ing has been left to the el­e­ments, and now has a ghostly, derelict look to it.

Sheets of steel sid­ing swing pre­car­i­ously like un­latched shut­ters in the breeze, a large sec­tion of the roof has col­lapsed, and a front door has been pushed off its hinges, of­fer­ing free ac­cess to any­one wish­ing to en­ter the cav­ernous fa­cil­ity.

Inside, a vast pro­duc­tion line is silent, the green paint flak­ing off the metal.

Butt’s boots and cov­er­alls? They’re still inside. “To me, it’s shame­ful,” Butt stated last week. Prod­uct in big de­mand The build­ing was con­structed by Earle Broth­ers Fish­eries in the early 1970s, and op­er­ated as a fish of­fal pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity — known to many as the meal plant — un­til the cod mora­to­rium in 1991.

The plant could pro­duce some 300,000 pounds of fish pro­tein — made from a com­bi­na­tion of fish parts dis­carded dur­ing pro­cess­ing at other plants around the Avalon re­gion — dur­ing a 24-hour pe­riod.

The pro­tein was in big de­mand for many years, and was shipped to cus­tomers around the world, in­clud­ing Nor­way, Rus­sia, Swe­den and be­yond as feed for cat­tle.

It was even shipped to Ethiopia to feed peo­ple dur­ing a deadly famine in the 1980s, said Butt.

At its peak, the plant em­ployed about 50 peo­ple, and the wages were good.

“Back in the 80s I was bring­ing $1,000 a week,” said Butt.

“I got a new ve­hi­cle. A new home. And it’s all paid for. That’s where I got it. It brought me in some good. It’s too bad it closed down. I en­joyed work­ing there ev­ery morn­ing,” he added.

But those of a cer­tain vin­tage will also re­mem­ber the un­pleas­ant smell that em­anated from the plant. When the winds blew in from the east, many found the smell un­bear­able.

There were times when the late Fred Earle, who man­aged the fa­cil­ity, would shut down the plant in or­der to spare the staff and pa­tients at the hospi­tal.

“One thing I can say about Fred Earle: he had a lot of re­spect for the peo­ple at the hospi­tal,” said Butt.

“But for me and many oth­ers, it was the smell of pros­per­ity. It gave me a good life. I reared four chil­dren. To me, that was ev­ery­thing. But to oth­ers it was just a bloody stink.” New life About five years af­ter it closed, the fa­cil­ity was re­opened by new own­ers, a con­sor­tium un­der the name of Is­land By-Prod­ucts. The com­pany pro­duced a dried pow­der from crab and shrimp shells for sale in Asia.

But it, too, ceased op­er­a­tion a decade ago, and the site has been mostly quiet ever since.

Gary Butt was there on Day 1, when the doors opened, and he was there at the end. He still has the keys to the build­ing, in fact.

And the land on which the build­ing sits was once owned by his fa­ther, the late Gor­don Butt.

“I’ve been con­nected to that prop­erty for my en­tire life,” said Butt.

How­ever, he now re­gards the site with a sense of con­cern; not pride. De­bris from the build­ing has blown onto his daugh­ter’s prop­erty, and he’s wor­ried some­one is go­ing to get hurt.

“I don’t know why (the own­ers) let it run down, and I can’t even see why they bought it,” he said.

“For me and many oth­ers, it was the smell of pros­per­ity. It gave me a good life. I reared four chil­dren. To me, that was ev­ery­thing. But to oth­ers it was just a bloody

stink.”

De­mo­li­tion or­der

The state of the build­ing has also caught the at­ten­tion of the Car­bon­ear town coun­cil, which voted to is­sue a de­mo­li­tion or­der at last week’s reg­u­lar meet­ing.

The com­pany will now have 30 days to re­spond to the or­der, be­fore coun­cil de­cides on its next course of ac­tion.

Mayor Sam Slade ex­pressed fears that young peo­ple may en­ter the un­sta­ble build­ing, and is wor­ried some­one might get hurt, or worse.

“We need to be proac­tive and speak to the com­pany. They have a re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Slade later told The Com­pass.

A spokesman for Is­land By-Prod­ucts Ltd., Hant’s Har­bour busi­ness­man Blair Janes, said coun­cil has been no­ti­fied “we are go­ing to deal with it.”

He said some equip­ment has been re­moved in re­cent days, and an as­sess­ment will be done to de­ter­mine the best course of ac­tion.

“We’ve got a build­ing that needs to be ad­dressed. We’re ad­dress­ing it,” said Janes. He could not give a time­frame on when a de­ci­sion might be made on whether to sta­bi­lize the build­ing or tear it down.

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

This large, di­lap­i­dated struc­ture at 71 Lower South­side Road once op­er­ated as a “meal plant,” trans­form­ing fish of­fal into pro­tein for cat­tle feed.

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