Moncton air quality study finds no health hazard from sewage odours

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Moncton skyline
Photo of the Moncton skyline. The North End Community air quality assessment results presented by Hive Engineering did not reveal any problematic levels in VOC parameters. Of the 74 VOCs able to be detected, only 16 VOCs were found, and all were below guidelines. Photo Credit: Danita Delimont, stock.adobe.com

A new air quality study for the north end of Moncton, New Brunswick, says that while there are certainly unpleasant odours emanating from the industrial area in question, none of the 16 detected volatile organic compounds (VOCs), exceeded allowable levels. 

As the number of residences near a Moncton sewage composting facility and other commercial operations grew over two decades from a handful of homes into the hundreds, so grew the number of odour complaints called into the municipality. 

To address the odour issue, Moncton City Council ordered an assessment last summer in response to complaints of sewage, compost, chemical and burning odours. 

The North End Community air quality assessment results presented by Hive Engineering did not reveal any problematic levels in VOC parameters. Of the 74 VOCs able to be detected, only 16 VOCs were found, and all were below guidelines. 

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“That doesn’t make the smells any less bad, but at least we know they don’t seem to be dangerous from an outdoor health perspective,” Tim Moerman, Director of Environmental Planning and Management, told city council in December 2023. 

TransAqua, previously known as the Greater Moncton Wastewater Commission, utilizes sewage biosolids at its compost operation south of Berry Mills Road. Rayan Environmental Solutions, which recycles metal and glass off Berry Mills Road, has also had to submit a plan to the province to address potential odours. Additionally, there is a regional waste management facility in the area.

Steve Schaller from Hive Engineering said his team received nearly 100 “sewage/compost” odour phone calls to its complaints line established while it conducted testing throughout September 2023. 

The Hive team had several sampling stations to gauge the VOCs and utilized summa canister sampling for four VOC events that enabled them to send collected air to its lab. They also conducted reads for total suspended particulates, sulfur dioxide, and total volatile organics. Additionally, Hive performed a bacteroides sewage screen that failed to detect issues. Wipe and settled dust sampling, however, confirmed black soot at a higher-than-expected level.  

TransAqua’s odour mitigation plan has increased the number of covers at the site and added platforms for the covers, according to council’s discussion. The company has also added misting and weather stations so that they can’t turn piles under certain weather conditions. Additionally, the company started hauling some biosolids to another facility outside the city limits. 

TransAqua officials were not in attendance at the meeting, but have obtained a copy of the air quality assessment.

Council suggested that TransAqua may consider building a structure with filtration to contain the smell, or move its composting facility outside the city. 

Moncton is considering whether to continue with odour testing next summer, potentially with fixed monitoring stations. 

Related Professional Development Course

Attend “Air Quality, Climate Change, and Decarbonization” on April 24th at the CANECT 2024 Environmental Compliance and Due Diligence Training Event in Vaughan, Ontario. Attendees will learn about air quality regulation and reporting, including odour and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as encroachment and community engagement. Visit www.canect.net for more information.

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