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Southern Alberta residents fed up with feedlot odours

High River woman says after leaving windows open overnight, it smelled like a herd of cows had come through her living room.
NEWS- Rimrock Feeders RK 8545WEB
Rimrock Feeders in Foothills County, west of High River, on Aug. 27.

Citizens had a chance to air frustrations about increased odours from a feedlot during a council meeting in High River on Sept. 12.

Representatives from Rimrock Feeders were at the meeting to discuss odour mitigation strategies and to answer questions from council members.  

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said although feedlot odours are nothing new in town, there has been a significant odour increase this year.  

Recurring odour has become a hot topic in High River and in areas of Foothills County this summer, with many residents saying they cannot go outside or leave windows open when the smell is bad.

“That’s the issue,” Snodgrass said. “And how do we mitigate it?”

The meeting was well attended by members of the public. All seats in the gallery of council chambers were taken, and people stood in aisles and doorways or listened to the meeting from the building lobby.

Residents could ask questions or make comments to council but were not allowed to address the Rimrock delegation directly.

Many who spoke were frustrated and felt like they were not being heard.

High River resident Darwin Robinson said getting answers about the feedlot is like being on a merry-go-round.    

“The Town can’t do anything about it, you talk to the County, the County passes the buck to the NRCB (Natural Resources Conservation Board),” Robinson said. 

“It’s a run-around," he said. "You can’t get a direct answer. No one’s responsible.”    

Robinson described hosting visitors from out of town three times over the summer and said every one of them asked how he lives with the stink in High River.

“I’m not happy. I don’t think there’s enough being done,” he said. “If the regulations allow this kind of stink to happen on a daily basis in this town, then the regulations need to be changed.    

“They need to be changed to a point where we can live and have quality of life in this town, where we can walk on our decks, go out in our backyards, walk around town, and not be known as the town that stinks all the time.”    

One resident who spoke at the meeting said she had heard of people moving out of town due to the smell, and said she feels like she is being run over by a corporation.

She talked about waking up one morning after she had left her windows open and it smelling like a herd of cows had come through her living room.

"And it smells intolerable," she said. "It's not a smell, it's not an odour, it's a stench."

Another resident asked if air quality testing had been done.  

“What you’re smelling is not healthy, and you can’t tell me that it’s okay,” she said.

Coun. Michael Nychyk said he wants to find ways to work with the feedlot to solve the odour problem.

How can the feedlot operate, and how can residents in High River enjoy their community, Nychyk asked?

“Because we’re a long ways off right now, in my opinion,” he said, as many in the gallery applauded the comments.   

Snodgrass said there is no denying there's an issue, but the Town has no direct authority regarding the operation of the feedlot.

“I believe wholly in working together with Rimrock to find solutions,” he said. “That’s the only thing the Town of High River can do.”     

Rimrock Feeders is located about six kilometres west of High River in Foothills County. The feedlot opened in 2019, with a capacity of up to 35,000 cattle, on the former Western Feedlots site.

The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) is responsible for regulating confined feeding operations in Alberta. It has conducted inspections at Rimrock Feeders due to the number of complaints it has received this summer. Inspectors have also visited High River at different times to assess odours, but no findings have been released yet.