Residents concerned over oilfield equipment cleaning odours

For some residents and workers in Kuusamo Industrial Park, the smell from ICF Red Deer Oilfield Cleaning Facilities has been a headache.

For some residents and workers in and around Kuusamo Industrial Park, the smell from ICF Red Deer Oilfield Cleaning Facilities has been a headache, literally.

“You cannot be outside for about an hour and you have a headache,” said Janet Hartigh, who lives nearby.

Kris Psiurski, who also lives in the area, has similar complaints.

“The smell is so so unpleasant and possibly noxious … If you’re out in your yard for a couple hours, you’ll end up with a splitting headache for a day,” said Psiurski.

The problem began in April, said Hartigh. ICF Red Deer had moved into the industrial park not long before, where they clean oilfield and industrial equipment. The wind carried the smell of the operation throughout the surrounding area.

“We have to breathe that … We live here and all of us were here before them,” said Hartigh.

Rick Splett is the president of Foothills Energy Services, based in the Kuusamo Industrial Park.

The smell from ICF Red Deer’s operations has caused headaches among many of his employees,  disrupting work activities.

“We would like to see that facility operate without any odour emissions,” said Splett.

A previous company with similar operations had created no issues for area residents, said Hartigh.

Residents met with Wayne Murphy, ICF Red Deer’s owner, in May to voice their concerns. For months, there were no problems. However, the smell returned near the end of December.

In response, area residents and business owners met once again with Murphy last Wednesday. They presented him with several conditions, including an incident report from the end of December as soon as possible, an effective procedure for addressing the smell within four to six weeks, and a covered cleaning area, if possible.

Residents asked Murphy to improve procedures for monitoring and testing the toxicity of the contents of the equipment to be cleaned, and to not allow any receiving after hours without a worker present. They also asked Murphy to provide a copy of an air quality test, conducted in the spring by Alberta Environment, said Hartigh.

Red Deer County regulations for medium industrial districts state that “General industrial uses shall not create any nuisance effect beyond the boundaries of the site.”

Cynthia Cvik, the county’s director of planning and development services, said the county advised Murphy of the issue after receiving a number of complaints.

They have also contacted Alberta Environment to assess the situation.

“What are the situations where the smell occurs? If we can identify those we can ameliorate it,” said Cvik, adding that odours can be difficult to monitor. “We are trying to work with Alberta Environment and the property owners to address the problem.”

Murphy said the odour came from a specific kind of equipment that was sent for cleaning.

The oilfield residue inside the equipment had frozen, and was being steamed to clean it. The steam vapour smell spread throughout the area.

“We do have an issue with a particular type of equipment that should never have been in our yard,” said Murphy, adding that he is taking steps to address the problem.

“It took us some time to get the product out of the facility.”

When ICF Red Deer took over the operation from the previous company, there was an issue with how some things were stored, said Murphy.

Around seven uncovered bins were onsite. There is now one bin, said Murphy, which is cleaned regularly.

“I understand their frustration … There should be zero odour in the neighbourhood,” said Murphy. “We are doing everything in our power to make this perfect. The reason we got into this business was to do the right thing.”

Splett said he thinks Murphy is committed to responding to the concerns.

“I was appreciative that he attended the meeting. I’m confident that he got the message and I’m optimistic that his company will make the appropriate changes to eliminate any future noxious odour releases,”  said Splett.