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Rocky View’s Compost Dispute Underscores Challenges of Going Green

Jun. 21, 2019

Milton Scott tours around the rural roads of Rocky View County in his big, black Ford truck. He points at farmyards, identifying adversaries and allies.

“These people complained,” he says of a home on one side of the road. “These people didn’t,” he says about the home on the other side.

Smell. They complained – or didn’t complain – about the smell emanating from the compost at Thorlakson Feedyards, a family business at the centre of a community controversy with sweeping implications. Mr. Scott is the general manager of Thorlakson’s operation, which was founded in 1970, and in 1987 started composting the manure from the livestock brought there on the way to market. Thorlakson, in 2010, expanded the outdoor compost business, accepting waste from private companies and nearby communities. About 35 people work here.

Rocky View councillors recently voted unanimously to shut down the operation, but not its feedlot, in response to concerns from residents about odours.

The decision puts Thorlakson’s commercial customers in a bind and underscores the challenges of getting cities and businesses to adopt green policies such as composting organic waste.

“It is so incredibly bizarre,” Mr. Scott says. “We may have to start letting people go.”

Mr. Scott’s tour continues on the grid roads just east of Airdrie, Alta., a city that melts into the north end of Calgary. His company is a major business in Rocky View, the rural municipal district of about 40,000 people surrounding Airdrie and hugging Calgary’s northern, eastern and western boundaries. This is farming and ranching territory. Thorlakson itself farms about 4,856 hectares around its 72-hectare compost and feedlot operation.

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