- Thorlakson Feedyards started its operations as a feedlot on a quarter section of land 5km Northeast of Airdrie in 1970. It has grown over the years from a 3000 head operation to over 20,000 head of cattle today. Finding enough farmland to on which to spread the manure from this many cattle is a challenge.
- Fast forward to 1997 when Thorlakson Feedyards opened up “Nature’s Call”, a division that bags their manure for gardeners and landscapers. In 2010 The “Nature’s Call” facility applied for registration to process 20,000 tonnes per year of “vegetable waste” from sources external to their manure. They were given a Class 1 Composting facility under the Code of Practice for Compost Facilities. You can find a link to the Code of Practice for Compost Facilities here.
- Their approval waived many of the requirements that are normal for composting facilities because they promised “vegetable waste”. However today, a decade later, and reading their registration documents highly in their favour, they accept ALL waste that can be designated as Class 1. This without amending their permit.
- In 2015, the Manure bagging facility was sold to Scott’s Canada Ltd. who sell compost obtained from both “Thorlakson Nature’s Call Ltd.” and the City of Calgary composting facility. The location is not zoned “industrial” for this type of activity. Thorlakson’s Nature’s Call maintains that they bagged their manure for many years and are therefore “grandfathered”. We don’t think so. Green bin waste was never part of the manure bags they used to sell to gardeners, since green bins have only been in use since 2014. Also truck counts and estimating the compost pile growth shows that much more than 20,000 tonnes per year is accepted by this facility.
- Government bureaucratic involvement at the municipal and provincial levels seems to be inclined to do whatever it takes to help TNC. We speculate this is because they do not wish to inform voters and taxpayers what a failure that green bin programs really are. Residents take time to sort their compostable materials, get charged to process it, and then there is no demand, so 95% gets hauled to the landfill. In the meantime, there is no shortage of potential landfill space, only a self-imposed shortage of “government approved” sites. Even the idea that compost can be used as black dirt on construction sites is bogus, because contractors stockpile the original black dirt and do not want to pay for trucking compost from longer distances. Finding a facility like Thorlakson’s to take the huge amount of green bin compost material is advantageous to the garbage department of every community. But not advantageous to those who have to live near someone whose solution is place compost piles of close to your house while it rots.
- Something to think about is that grocery stores now have their spoilage picked up to be composted. The average person eats 2.5 kgs of food per day. Supermarkets throw away about 10% of the food they sell. For a city the size of Calgary, that works out to 300 tonnes per day of food waste just from supermarkets, about 30 ten tonne dump trucks per day. In addition, households throw out about 25% of the food they buy, preferentially into their green bin. You can do the math. The problem is huge. We don’t know how much of this ends up at Thorlakson’s but some of supermarket waste pick up services definitely delivery there.
Thorlakson’s Infraction History
Documented history of the Thorlakson Corporation’s disregard for the environment, for governing bodies and for the neighbours. Thorlaksons feedlot is a under a different corporate name but is owned and managed by the same group that has operates Thorlakson Nature’s Call.
The attached documents illustrate Thorlakson’s environmental, provincial and county infraction record as indicated by public record searches. Is it possible that they choose to maximize profits rather than show due care and follow the rules expected that a corporation should adhere to?
Between 2000 and 2002 the agricultural practices act legislation was updated and Natural Resource Conservation Board (NRCB) was created. The Environmental Protection Act was also updated at this time.
Ben Thorlakson played a major part in the decision making of this new legislation. He held a co-chair position on the advisory committee for the Environment Protection Act and a Board position on the committee providing input for the NRCB and the control of feedlots.
This legislation grandfathered the existing feedlots – meaning they didn’t have to follow the appropriate and stringent new rules for feedlots that protected the livestock and the environment. Being fully aware that his feedlot site and methodology was not state-of-the-art, Ben Thorlakson has chosen to not update to the new guidelines.
2003 & 2005 – Feedlot dam bursts twice, once in 2003 and again in 2005. This contaminated nearby ground and surface water and lead to high fecal count in tests conducted in 2015. See News Article.
June 2005 – Manure impacted water running into stream and to neighbouring properties as reported by neighbours.
June 2005 – Thorlakson’s written commitment to hire consultant and upgrade facility by fall of 2005. Commitment to stop contaminated run off.
April 2006 – Submitted Envirowest report. The report noted manure mingling with spring water. The NRCB gave instructions and support to Thorlakson’s Corporation.
September 2006 – Submitted final run off plan. The report noted manure mingling with spring water. The NRCB gave instructions and support to Thorlakson’s Corporation.
June 2007 – Submitted amended surface runoff report. The NRCB gave instructions and support to Thorlakson’s Corporation. The contaminated run off continued according to neighbour’s reports.
November 2007 – Meeting with Thorlakson, Environment and NRCB. Thorlakson asks for another amendment. Promises to have work completed by April 30, 2008 and provide written updates. No updates were sent.
June 11, 2008 – Contaminated runoff continued to flow according to neighbour’s reports. No work had been done.
June 13, 2008 – Enforcement order (see attachment). Divert spring water by June 23, 2008. All work to prevent manure contaminated feedlot water runoff to be done by Sept 30, 2008.
October 2008 Thorlakson reported work was done. The NRCB advised ongoing maintenance.
***NOTE: 3.5 years of delaying tactics before promised work is completed***
April 1, 2011 – Enforcement order (see attachment). Diverted water from unnamed tributary of Crossfield Creek into a dugout without a permit.
June 2013 – Manure runoff entered coulee and flowed eastward creating environmental risk.
March 2014 – Began adding curbside green bin stream from City of Airdrie to manure/vegetative compost without proper land designation and without a development permit. TNC is only permitted for Type 1 from AEP (<20,000 tonnes).
April 8, 2014 – Emergency order (see attachment). Overflow catch basin and release of manure into the environment caused “immediate and significant risk to the environment – contaminating public lands and other people’s private lands”. Immediately build a berm, remove run off from ditches, pump catch basin.
May 6, 2014 – Enforcement order (see attachment). Plan to be submitted by Aug 11, 2014. Work to be completed Oct 31, 2014.
November 6, 2014 – Amended plan to be submitted by Dec 15, 2014. October 31, 2014 Completion date amended to May 31, 2015.
***NOTE: 1 year and 11 months of delaying tactics before runoff situation repaired***
February 2015 – Rockyview County, Council Agenda, 5-15-11-15 (B-2), Agricultural Services Team Lead Report, File: 6000-100
- “Provided a handout from the Natural Resources Conservation Board respecting the Thorlakson Feedyards and the environmental concerns at this site.” (Agenda package Feb. 15, 2015)
May 4, 2016 – Rockyview County issued a soil conversion Development Permit # PRDP20154858 with the following conditions:
- #13 That the business shall use only manure produced from the adjacent property’s primary use (Confined Feedlot)
- #15 That it is recommended by the county that a shelter belt shall be installed along Range Road 284 to help mitigate any future adjacent landowners impacts.
- *Thorlaksons continued hauling in compost from residential waste stream
- *Thorlaksons did not plant a shelter belt
***NOTE: 3 years delaying tactics – Thorlakson Corporation ignores rules and guidelines issued by Rockyview County***
December 2018 – Application for direct control land use designation. Alberta Environment training Thorlakson’s Corporation how to compost.
January 31, 2019 – Deadline for development permit and submission of technical documents. Alberta Environment training how to compost.
March 1, 2019 – Rocky View County (RVC) is carrying out enforcement compliance measures against TNC. TNC has failed to meet required deadlines and conditions for a development permit application. See News Article 1. See News Article 2.
March 15, 2019 – Emergency order (see attachment). On March 11, 2019 Thorlakson Feedyards was observed with a catch basin almost overflowing to the overflow culvert, which would result in the release of manure into the environment, posing an immediate and significant risk. Immediate action required.
July 15, 2019 – RVC allows TNC additional 3 months to cleanup site. TNC indicated it wasn’t possible to adhere to the three-month timeline while still following Alberta Environment’s Code of Practice for Compost Facilities.
June 13, 2020 – Neighbours observe TNC overflowing runoff issues (see attachment).
July 1, 2020 – TNC Feedlot was observed to be full and close to overflowing due to large amount of rainfall the area had received over the last couple days. History has demonstrated that if the catch basin overflows manure, contaminated water will flow into the county ditch on the west side of RR 284.
July 2, 2020 – NRCB issues TNC an Emergency Order to take immediate action to build up the berm on the NE catch basin to prevent an over flow from occurring (see attachment).
July 7, 2020 – RVC has deemed TNC facility to be remediated. All composting ancillary activity has ben halted, consequently the Country will no longer be pursuing enforcement action in this regard. (see attachment).
July 8, 2020 – Neighbours continue to observe TNC overflowing runoff issues (see attachment).
September 2020 – Request submitted from Dennis Gieck to present during the November 4, 2020 hearing against TNC for a $1,486,861.49 fine imposed by Alberta Environment on February 12, 2020 (see attachment).
November 4, 2020 – Hearing to be held in regards to February 12, 2020 decision of the Director, Alberta Environment and Parks to issue EPEA Administrative Penalty No. EPEA-19/20-AP-SSR-20/01 in the amount of $1,486,861.49 for alleged contraventions at the Thorlakson Nature’s Call Inc. Class 1 composting facility in Airdrie.
***NOTE: 5+ years of delaying tactics and still not operating legally***
***NOTE: Stench has been reduced, but groundwater contamination problems pursue***