Whitbourne res­i­dents gather to protest pos­si­ble com­post­ing plant Res­i­dents frus­trated by plant con­struc­tion plans

The Compass - - Front Page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

Whitbourne res­i­dents want to keep a pos­si­ble com­post­ing plant out of their back­yard.

Dozens of frus­trated Whitbourne res­i­dents, along with the town coun­cil and Whitbourne Fire Depart­ment, gath­ered at the town coun­cil of­fice on the evening of May 16.

The protest was formed for res­i­dents to voice their con­cerns about a proposal by govern­ment to build an or­ganic com­post­ing plant on the Ar­gen­tia Ac­cess Road, only a short dis­tance from the town.

Metro En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices is propos­ing the build­ing to han­dle car­casses such as mink, fish and chicken.

Res­i­dents showed up at around 6:30 p.m., some with signs say­ing “Not in my back­yard”, oth­ers just look­ing to ex­press their con­cerns about the proposal.

Mayor Hilda Whe­lan told The Compass that build­ing a com­post­ing plant within town bor­ders would cause more prob­lems than the town is ready to han­dle.

“At the end of the day it’s just not safe for the town,” Whe­lan said. “It’s not just about the smell, it’s the fact that we as a town aren’t pre­pared to deal with the other prob­lems that would come with this kind of fa­cil­ity. Our fire­fight­ers just don’t have the proper train­ing or equip­ment to deal with that kind of fire, be­cause it’s never been some­thing they’ve had to deal with.”

Scott Mac­Don­ald is the cap­tain of the lo­cal fire brigade, and says that the main con­cern of the depart­ment is that the con­struc­tion of this type of com­post­ing plant would have them po­ten­tially fac­ing fires that the brigade is com­pletely un­fa­mil­iar with.

“I’m con­fi­dent in say­ing that we as a fire depart­ment would be able to han­dle any­thing, with the proper train­ing and equip­ment of course,” said Mac­Don­ald. “But that’s the thing – in or­der for us to be prop­erly trained and out­fit­ted for these kinds of fires, it would cost tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, and as far as we can tell, we’d be ex­pected to han­dle all that our­selves.”

Mac­Don­ald said the 28-man brigade re­cently did their re­search into fires from com­post­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and came to the con­clu­sion that build­ing a com­post­ing plant so close to town is a risk for the com­mu­nity as a whole.

Fur­ther re­search by the brigade in­di­cated that the proper suit for han­dling such a fire costs around $1,200 a piece, re­sult­ing in costly pur­chases just to prop­erly out­fit the fire­fight­ers, not in­clud­ing the cost of the re­quired train­ing.

Res­i­dents who were present at the protest also noted that the com­post­ing plant would af­fect not only Whitbourne, but also neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties such as Mark­land, which would be a sim­i­lar dis­tance from the plant as Whitbourne.

“It’s re­ally not the smell that ev­ery­one’s con­cerned about, I don’t think,” said Mac­Don­ald. “They’ve tried propos­ing this to sev­eral towns in New­found­land now, and it’s wrong for them to just throw it at us and say, ‘Deal with it be­cause no­body else would.’ If it didn’t work any­where else, why on earth would it work here? Peo­ple live here, it’s a com­mu­nity, things like this need to be planned out bet­ter.”

Trevor Reid is a res­i­dent of Whitbourne. He at­tended the protest hop­ing to voice his con­cerns as well. Reid told The Compass that the com­mu­nity of Whitbourne isn’t protest­ing the build­ing it­self, but rather, the build­ing’s pro­posed place­ment.

“We have no is­sues with the plant. I don’t think any­one here is look­ing to stop the con­struc­tion of the plant it­self,” said Reid. “We just don’t want it here. There’s so much space in this prov­ince, so many paved roads that lead hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres away from com­mu­ni­ties, why not build it there? Surely there are bet­ter places than Whitbourne.”

Dead­line for pub­lic com­ments on the proposal is May 18, 2017, and the Min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion on the proposal is due on May 25.

“At the end of the day it’s just not safe for the town.”

Hilda Whe­lan

CHRIS LEWS/THE COMPASS

Mayor Hilda Whe­lan thanked the com­mu­nity for com­ing to the protest.

CHRIS LEWIS/THE COMPASS

Res­i­dents came hold­ing flashy signs with their mes­sage clearly stated.

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