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N.B. residents hoping suspension of shell-drying facility is permanent

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Residents and clean air advocates in Richibucto, N.B., are cautiously optimistic a shell-drying facility has closed for good.

On Saturday, Coastal Shell Products announced in a news release it has suspended all operations.

That’s a big win for Maisie McNaughton, the spokesperson for the Kent Clean Air Action Committee.

“If what they sent in their letter is very true, then it is a big victory. It's the biggest that we have had. It's something we have been fighting relentlessly for for eight years,” said McNaughton.

Residents in the area have been very vocal with their concerns about the odours coming from the plant and have made numerous complaints to the province.

Richibucto resident Gloria Arsenault was thrilled to hear about the suspension of operations.

Maisie McNaughton, left, the spokesperson for the Kent Clean Air Action Committee, is pictured along with Richibucto, N.B., resident Gloria Arsenault. (Derek Haggett/CTV Atlantic)

“I don't think people realize what we have been through in this town for the last eight years. It's been pure hell. They made our lives miserable,” said Arsenault.

Stanley Stewart said the smell is terrible.

“It’s the worst thing ever. I've been a fishery officer for 25 years. I worked on the water and I worked where there's lots of stuff and there's no smell I ever smelled in my life like this. It's awful what it's doing to the community,” said Stewart.

The Coastal Shell Products facility is pictured. (Source: Derek Haggett/CTV News Atlantic)

Coastal Shell Products manager Jamie Goguen said they’ve never denied the fact the plant generates odours, but it tried to work with both the provincial and federal governments to come up with a mitigation plan over concerns about the smell.

“We’ve invested hundreds of thousands, have operated at a loss of over $1.2 million and continued to employ over 25 staff to show our commitment to resolving public concerns and our commitment to New Brunswick’s shellfish industry that relies on Coastal Shell for waste disposal,” said Goguen in the news release.

In an interview with CTV News on Monday, Goguen said he believes the government has let the company down.

"I think the province missed out on a huge opportunity here because we spent over $250,000 studying and developing and testing a system that has been used, approved by the USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and was used throughout industry in Canada to resolve this type of situation,” said Goguen.

Goguen said they presented all that information to the Department of the Environment as well as the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries (DAAF) because at the time they had made an application for funding through the Atlantic Fisheries fund.

“Everybody seemed to be very happy about the viability of the solution,” said Goguen. “Then we got news about a month ago that the project had been denied by DAAF. So that changed the situation drastically at that moment because we had been taking losses and supporting losses due to the restricted hours all that time in the hopes that the province would step up to do the right thing and help implement that system to mitigate the odours and when that fell through the company decided it could no longer support those losses."

Coastal Shell Products had only been permitted to operate from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily to minimize the impact on the community.

Twenty staff members have been laid off and more job losses are pending.

Arsenault is sympathetic, but said the town of 2,000 people shouldn’t be punished for 20 jobs.

“It's not right,” said Arsenault.

McNaughton said her heart goes out to the people who have lost their employment.

“That's an unfortunate reality of what this has been,” said McNaughton.

In an email to CTV News, the Department of Environment and Local Government said it was notified by Coastal Shell Products on Friday that they would be suspending all operations on Sunday.

The Coastal Shell Products facility is pictured. (Source: Derek Haggett/CTV News Atlantic)

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Savoie said complaints about the company have been taken seriously and the department has monitored odours to ensure the facility has been complying with the terms of the province’s Approval to Operate.

The department required Coastal Shell Products in 2022 to hire a third-party company with experience in odour control to develop a plan to contain the smell.

“In 2023, the company submitted its plan to the department, which included intentions to install new odour control equipment,” said Savoie. “The department required that the equipment be installed by July 2024. To date, the department has no indication these upgrades are in the process of being implemented.”

In May, Coastal Shell Products requested permission to operate 24 hours per day before implementing the odour control plan.

Goguen said they'll stay closed until a change happens with their approval to operate.

The Approval to Operate expires Aug. 31.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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