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Something this way smells

By Lorraine Graves

Published 12:17 PDT, Wed May 3, 2017

It’s hot. You’re trying to sleep. The window’s open. Suddenly, a stench wades in from outside. What can you do but shut the window?

You can make an official complaint.

Luckily, smells are regulated.

“Our rule in Metro Vancouver is that no business can discharge air contaminants unless they are covered by a Metro Vancouver permit or a Metro Vancouver bylaw,” says Ray Robb, division manager for environmental regulation and enforcement at Metro Vancouver.

But with the coming legalisation of marijuana, comes the fear of the distinctive smell that could waft from newly-legal grow-ops.

In light of the five-year long fight about odours from Harvest Power’s composting facility in East Richmond, candidates in Richmond-Queensborough riding were asked how would they regulate grow-op aromas to protect the rights of residents and business owners?

Aman Singh, running for the BC NDP said: “If we were elected, we would make this decision in consultation with the municipalities, the federal government and the public.”

BC Liberals’ Jas Johal said: “I think this will all come from consultation from the feds, the province and the municipalities. As well there may be a need for a municipal bylaw.”

Michael Wolfe is the riding’s BC Green Party candidate and a teacher at McNair Secondary. He says of Harvest Power’s odor: “We are at No. 5 and Williams roads so are the first to get the smell. A Green government would support research, development and implementation of innovative strategies to achieve the desired environmental results.”

From Metro Vancouver’s perspective, Ray Robb says the techniques employed by illegal grow-ops to avoid detection, would be required of legal grow-ops.

“We’ve checked with Washington State, [where marijuana is already legal] and activated charcoal filters online in the air exhaust pipes are the way to go.”

The filters to take out the distinctive grow-ops’ smells are similar to what’s in a home air purifier or a Brita filter but larger.

Robb says each grow-op will start off under a separate permit but will likely eventually be covered by industry-wide regulations, adding, “The politicians are the ones who pass the regulations.”

Metro Vancouver received many complaints from Richmond residents about odours emanating from the facility, which spurred the company to make changes at Metro Vancouver’s insistence.

“They have definitely improved things however more needs to be done,” says Robb. “If a smell is capable of causing material physical discomfort, or if a smell is capable of injuring the health of a person, you can lodge a complaint.”

Airborne compounds needn’t be poisonous to make you sick. Just the stench alone can make you ill.

“Our experts have told us you can have other responses, for example a bad smell can raise your blood pressure or constrict blood flow; it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night,” according to Robb.

He also says that bad smells can lead to longer adverse health outcomes.

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