What’s the big stink in Albion in Maple Ridge?

Residents riled by elusive odour that's in the air, somewhere

There is a noxious smell in Albion that has residents checking their household garbage to see if it’s rotten, and fire trucks racing to the area after calls of natural gas leaks.

But it’s not a gas leak and it’s not garbage. At this point, the city is still trying to pinpoint the source of the rotten-egg pong.

It can hang in the air over the playing field at Samuel Robertson Technical, or be detected on Lougheed Highway and 240th Street, but it’s not there all the time.

Scott Leaf said he has been assailed by the stench inside his house in Thornhill Heights on 248th Street.

“It’s like a garbage dump smell,” he said. “It’s so bad… you think the garbage in your house has gone bad.”

He has led the conversation on the Albion Neighbours Facebook page, where there can be found numerous complaints about “horrible fumes” and “rotten eggs.”

People associate the smell of rotten eggs with natural gas. Fortis adds the odourant mercaptan to its naturally odourless gas, so a leak can be detected. That has led to emergency calls to the Maple Ridge Fire Department.

Fire Chief Howard Exner said in the last four weeks there were six complaints that crews responded to with lights and sirens, only to find there was no gas leak. Fortis reports no problems in the area.

He said there have been numerous calls from that area to the fire department, but it comes and goes.

“It’s quite a transient smell.”

“I don’t believe it to be dangerous at this point,” said Exner. “It’s definitely a nuisance.”

He has referred the matter to city hall, and Metro environmental staff, who have been investigating the source this week, using air quality detection equipment.

City environmental planner Rod Stott has received approximately 12 complaints in the past two weeks, and is now eliminating possible sources.

He says a potential source is “swamp gas” from anaerobic processes, which would have been speeded by continuous rain combined with relatively mild temperatures in recent weeks. He said it’s a more earthy smell than natural gas.

“It’s an unpleasant smell for many people,” he said.

Stott said manure spreading, sewage treatment in Langley and even spawning salmon could be causing the smell.

“There’s a lot of potential sources for these odours.”

Fortis reports no problems.

Coun. Gordy Robson said the Kwantlen First Nation owns an old dump site on the Lougheed Highway, near the corner of Lougheed and 240th. The site did not take household waste, but stumps and other bio matter were dumped there.

However, Brenda Gabriel at the band office said the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group, which oversees band lands, has been working to cap the former landfill site. So she said it could not be assumed that the old landfill was the cause.

Nearby, AT&H Industries takes green waste from municipalities to make topsoil.

AT&H spokesperson Holly Long said the material brought to their site has already been composted, and it is ripe when it gets stirred up.

“When you disturb it, to mix it with sand, that’s when you get smell,” she said.

It is strong enough that when mixing happens at a similar operation on the Langley side of the Fraser River, the smell wafts over to her Albion operation.

But Long said there are several operators in the area bringing in the green waste to make topsoil. She has worked with Metro Vancouver on containing the smell, and has gone to using smaller piles of green waste, rather than a single big one.