Orgaworld Canada, a composting company, has won a hard-fought appeal for permission to compost disputed wastes at its Ottawa facility, despite MOE fears about potential odours. The disputed wastes include pet faeces, urine, and organic waste in plastic bags. In rejecting the Ministry of the Environment’s ultraconservative approach to the Orgaworld application, the Environmental Review Tribunal has set an important precedent for odour issues across the province.Orgaworld did not challenge the MOE’s 1 Odour Unit standard, but claimed they could meet it with their proposed design and operations. Based on problems at Orgaworld’s somewhat similar London facility, the MOE doubted this claim. Both sides admitted that it’s impossible to be certain exactly how well odour control equipment will work in a particular case. The MOE therefore decided to err on the side of being conservative, an approach they described as “the precautionary principle”.
The Tribunal ruled that this is not the statutory test. To turn down an application, the MOE must have reasonable grounds to believe that it may create a nuisance. Mere uncertainty does not create such reasonable grounds. Thus, the ERT ordered the MOE to amend Orgaworld’s approval, much as they had requested. However, Orgaworld was ordered to give the MOE full information before accepting new waste streams, so that the MOE would have the information necessary to decide whether to issue an administrative order