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N.B. shell processing plant suspends operation, 20 staff laid off

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Coastal Shell Products in Richibucto, N.B., has suspended all operations.

The company made the announcement in a news release sent Saturday night.

The release stated that despite efforts to continue to serve the shellfish industry in New Brunswick, operational limitations imposed by the provincial government over the last two years have created financial conditions that no longer make it possible for the company to operate.

Coastal Shell Products Manager Jamie Goguen said the company has tried work with the province and federal government for over a year and a half to implement a mitigation plan for concerns nearby residents had about the odour coming from the Richibucto facility.

The gate leading to the Coastal Shell Products facility is pictured on May 23, 2023. (Derek Haggett/CTV)

“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.

Twenty staff members have been laid off with more layoffs pending.

Goguen went on to say that despite claims from the public and numerous media reports, Coastal Shell Products was operating within the province's guidelines.

“Ongoing and aggressive testing by the province never found Coastal Shell to be in violation of air quality limits," said Goguen. "We have continued to work with the Department of Environment towards every request and complied with every restriction.”

There are ten processing facilities in the province that rely on Coastal Shell Products for lobster and crab shell disposal.

For years, residents in the area have complained about foul odours and loud sounds coming from the plant which takes seafood waste and turns it into products like fertilizer for export.

The Kent Clean Air Action Committee (KCAAC) has been very vocal with its concerns over the plant for well over a year.

“My community is hopeful that this is truly the end, and not a strategy by Coastal Shell Producers to force the government into relaxing their requirements, and providing further funding. We are optimistic, but we stay vigilant in our fight to breathe clean air,” said Maisie Rae McNaughton, a member of the committee in an email to CTV News. “The meeting scheduled with Minister Glen Savoie, and my organization on Tuesday is still a priority. What has happened in Richibucto should happen to no other community in New Brunswick. We will continue to fight to mitigate the possibilities of any future activity that could undermine the health and the safety of people.”

The province reduced hours of operation after numerous complaints about odours were made by people living in the vicinity of the facility.

Goguen said tests and investigations never produced evidence of an environmental issue, but the company was not permitted to resume full operating hours.

“These restrictions have resulted in millions in lost revenue, an operating loss of over $1.2 million and continued false accusations on the impact of our plant,” said Goguen.

According to Goguen, the restrictions have kept Coastal Shell Products from securing funding for the air quality solution that the KCAAC said has plagued the region for years.

“We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the design of the solution and have verified that the proposed technology, which has proven to resolve similar issues in other locations, would resolve all the issues but our operating restrictions have eliminated potential public or private investment because we cannot show profitability without the expansion of hours,” he said.

Goguen said thousands of tons of sea shell waste is diverted from landfills because of Coastal Shell Products.

The plant has been in operation since 2017.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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