In Brief

The town blighted by vats of rotting seafood sauce

Local people say unbearable stench has made them ‘prisoners in their own homes’

Residents of a Canadian town say their lives are being ruined by an unbearable smell emanating from a factory that was abandoned 17 years ago.

The Atlantic Seafood Sauce Company factory in St Mary’s, Newfoundland, was closed in 2002 after extended legal battles over food safety complaints.

“Much of the sauce was never bottled or sold, and the mixture of capelin, herring, water and salt has been fermenting in the 147 vats since,” reports Canada’s Global News.

Each container “can hold about 12,500 litres of sauce, which has largely solidified in the tanks and leaked onto the floor over the years”, the news site adds.

The town’s deputy mayor, Steve Ryan, told Canadian broadcaster CBC that the liquid had been leaking “out through a drain on the side of the building, out into the beach and out into the ocean”.

A contractor was hired to clear the site in 2016, following investigations by federal and provincial officials, but that plan was abandoned after it emerged that the private company was dumping vats of waste in the ocean.

Ryan says the drains were filled with concrete in a separate clean-up attempt two years ago, but that hasn’t turned out too well either. “The tanks are still leaking some liquid down, but now it’s running on the floor, and it has nowhere to go,” he said.

“So now it’s just still in on the floor - two, three, four inches thick all over the floor, which is making the smell worse here in the community. In the summertime, it’s just unbearable.”

Because the sauce has solidified, any future removal programmes will have to “involve liquefying the substance and trucking it out of the community for disposal, making the process more costly”, says Global News.

The former owners of the factory, which opened in the 1990s, cannot be traced, and the 400-strong community of St Mary’s can’t afford to foot the estimated $700,000 (£545,000) clean-up bill, says Ryan.

Desperate residents told CBC that the smell is “causing health problems, because you can’t breathe when it’s so pungent”.

“There’s times I have to leave my home and go out to my son’s or daughter’s, because you can’t bear the smell here, because I have to bar up my house so the smell don’t get in it,” said one local woman.

Another told the broadcaster that the smell had rendered them “prisoners in our own homes”.

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