A cleanup crew in hazmat gear is expected to finish transporting more than eight tonnes of rotting meat Thursday from an abandoned butcher shop in North Bay, Ont.
The doors of Bavarian Meat Products have been closed since October 2021. The owners left behind hooks, freezers and shelves full of meat, which attracted swarms of flies and created a stench that spread through the neighborhood.
David Ladouceur, owner of Winmar Property Restoration, said his team had been hired by the owners to clean up the mess and had already transported tons of meat. He compared the total to filling about seven 20 cubic meter dumpsters.
“I’m sure people there have had a freezer that died on them and the contents of that freezer have spoiled,” Ladoucer said. “Then you get a sense of what it’s like – the smells going through it, the way things start to look after a certain period of time.
“Except it’s 14,000 square feet.”
The Ladouceur crew donned full personal protective equipment (PPE) for the operation – Tyvek coveralls, chemical-resistant rubber boots, nitrile gloves under the mechanic’s gloves, all fully sealed. Crews also wear full-face respirators that block out 99% of odors, Ladouceur said.
“They’re outfitted, but they don’t wear suits that keep them cool by any stretch of the imagination.”
Owners who hired Winmar — land registry documents link him to 2471859 Ontario Inc., a numbered company in Oakville, Ontario. – were finally forced by the town hall to remove the meat after neighbors complained about hordes of flies which also began to invade a nearby body shop.
CBC Sudbury is trying to locate the owners. It is not immediately clear why the butcher shop was abandoned.
No one wanted this project. But I reminded my team – we clean up floods, we clean up sewage, we clean up mold, we go into fires, we did trauma cleanup, we did COVID cleanup.– David Ladouceur of Winmar Property Restoration on cleaning up spoiled meat
Ladouceur said his team had to team up with a pest control company to get rid of the swarm, a process that took a few hours. Once the site was cleared of insects, workers were able to carve a pedestrian path through the facility.
“Nobody wanted this project,” Ladouceur said. “But I reminded my team – we clean up floods, we clean up sewage, we clean up mold, we go into fires, we did trauma cleanup, we did COVID cleanup.”
“And I just said to the team, ‘It’s something nobody in town wants to do, but it has to be done.'”
Ladouceur said the crews – who worked all day in the excruciating heat – all came back in high spirits.
“They were joking, laughing. I mean, they’re working on it,” he said. “They’re just marching on it like soldiers. And I mean, give them all the credit. They haven’t shown any signs of negativity, and it’s been full steam ahead.
” And you know what ? When we’re done, we’re done.
The town hall gets involved
North Bay Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch said she and her father, the councilman. Bill Vrebosh, worked every day for three weeks to “manage” the situation between frustrated neighbors and a landlord who lived out of town.
“We couldn’t find a way inside because the city has no jurisdiction inside the building,” she said. “We tried to get inside under property standards or bylaws. But we had no jurisdiction to enter a building where there was no building code violation.”
Eventually, when diplomacy appeared to fail, the deputy mayor said she felt compelled to “shame” the owners by involving the local media.
“It’s a stage where we did our best to get in touch with the owners, but we weren’t getting anywhere,” she said.
“So now the building is for sale. And we said it’s time to make history now. We’ve done everything we can. We can’t find a way to clean this up legally.
“Now it’s time to shame the owner by saying, ‘You know what? This is what you’re doing to the neighborhood and to business owners. It’s time to clean it up.'”
Bill Vrebosch said it’s an example of how municipalities can sometimes be crippled by restrictive laws.
“It’s kind of an absentee owner,” he said. “I mean, it shows you there’s no local control.”
Vrebosch, whose wife once owned another Gravelle Butcher, another North Bay department store, said the building’s new owner should take some responsibility for what’s inside.
“The day he decided to put the padlock… [he] should have given the meat to someone, even to a soup kitchen or to help a family situation.
“But they just let it go to waste.”
At the landfill
North Bay landfill supervisor Ed Francouer confirmed that the spoiled meat is destined for the site, where it will be treated and covered. He estimated the load weighs around eight tons, with more expected to arrive in the coming days.
“You could feel it before it got here,” Francouer said. “And flies everywhere.”
Transport crews drove in pressurized cabins and wore PPE to keep the stench at bay, he added.