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Injunction hearing to close plant heard by Moncton judge

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Dozens of people from the Richibucto, N.B., area travelled by bus and car to the Moncton Law Courts Friday morning for a hearing of the motion of the injunction against the Coastal Shell Products facility.

The Kent Clean Air Action Committee [KCAAC] has been trying for years to have the seashell drying and processing facility closed or moved due to the smell and they’ve taken the case to court in hopes that will happen.

Residents from the Richibucto area board a bus to head home after an injunction hearing in Moncton on Nov. 10, 2023. (Source: CTV News Atlantic/Derek Haggett)They’ve spoken to the media about their cause numerous times over the past six months, but Friday was the first day they’ve shared their plight in front of a judge.

Judge Christa Bourque listened to around 15 affidavits from plaintiffs who say the stench emitting from the plant is having a negative mental and physical impact on their lives.

Bourque listened all morning and early afternoon to portions of the affidavits and decided what was and what wasn’t admissible, saying some complaints could be considered fact, while others opinion.

Some of the complaints about the odour from the plaintiffs living in the area included:

  • Headaches and nausea;
  • Anxiety and stress;
  • Closing windows, taping up doors, shutting vents;
  • Not being able to enjoy their property, entertain guests or go for walks;
  • Noise and light pollution from the plant during the night;
  • Schools and daycares having to deal with the smell during the daytime;
  • Businesses losing sales;
  • Property values dropping.

The facility is only permitted to operate from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., but residents say the smell lingers throughout the day, especially in the warmer months.

Residents stressed the smell was worse this year than in years past.

Mike Murphy, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, spoke for about 30 minutes after portions of the affidavits were read in court and said residents are “being held hostage” by the company that runs the plant.

“All these people are not imagining this,” said Murphy.

Defence attorney Edwin Ehrhardt said there’s no evidence anyone’s health is being affected by the plant.

The license Coastal Shell Products has with the province expires at the end of the month, but the company plans to be up and running again in the spring.

Ehrhardt said there would be “serious consequences” for the company if the plant were forced to close because creditors wouldn’t be paid and 26 people would be out of work.

He also disputed the claim from some of the affidavits that stated the plant was also causing noise pollution.

Ehrhardt said audio engineers did testing and determined the plant produced, “decibel levels of a mild wind.”

That caused a disturbance among the packed court room and Bourque was forced to call for order.

After affidavits were heard, Bourque said she wasn’t in a position to give a decision.

She said she would take all the evidence and apply the rules of the law and have an answer for both parties in the short-term.

Outside the courthouse, KCAAC spokesperson Maisie McNaughton said she wasn’t surprised, or disappointed a decision wasn’t made.

“I expected that and I’d rather she take her time with this because it is such a big file. It’s gone on for seven years now, so to make a decision in one day seems like it would be not a good thing,” said McNaughton.

McNaughton stressed the group’s mandate is have clean air in the area.

“Unfortunately, the clean air in the area is being impacted by Coastal Shell Products. So we’ve been stuck in this repetitive cycle of broken promises for seven years now,” she said.

Counsel Vincent Savoie said the injunction was very technical and he hopes the court will see that the matter is a big issue for the people of Richibucto and their plaintiffs.

“She [Bourque] needs some time to review all the facts and we’re hopeful she’ll render a decision for the people of Richibucto,” said Savoie.

Bourque did not give a date for when she would make a decision.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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