Trying to cover up when something goes wrong is the best way to make it worse


There probably are people on city staff and council who realize they are experiencing a major public relations disaster. The city’s public response to the serious problems at the new $33 million compost plant on Watson Road has been obscure, indirect and failing to reveal the truth.

In fact, the vague responses or lack of truth is making the problem worse. One only has to think back when the Tylenol crisis occurred after some containers were found to be poisonous. The manufacturer reassured the public their product was safe and recalled millions of bottles. The company took full responsibility. It’s a lesson the city could learn and emulate.

There is no effective communications plan in place to keep the public informed, despite the fallout of failure

The Mayor has virtually disappeared choosing not to get her hands dirty as the plant failed to meet planned performance. Janet Laird, Executive Director of Environmental Services and Engineering, has issued meaningless press releases instead of telling the public the truth why the plant doesn’t work. If Janet Laird has no idea what happened, then things will get worse. This was her baby and she must carry full responsibility for it.

Now the flow of wet waste will start again despite the lack of information about the design and construction of the plant that caused the problems in the first place.

Instead, the problem was tossed to the Public Liaison Committee (PLC) to investigate.

Well surprise! Some members of that committee are doing their homework. Technical questions are being asked of the city officials in charge of this project such as:

What was the measurement of odour units at the outlet of the biofilter during the source testing?

What was the date that the source testing protocol was accepted by the MOE (Ministry of Environment) and when was the sources testing completed?

At what CFM  (cubic feet per minute) was the biofilter designed to achieve the best optimization? As part of the action plan, “ the airflow to the odour management system was increased in order to dilute the ammonia loading.” Is this a permanent solution and if so, how has it impacted the backpressure in inches of water column?

If the backpressure is increased and the utility costs increase accordingly, will this cause a higher price of the source separated organics in the operating contract?

Are there chillers built into the collection system train to maintain the temperature?

Has the full analysis been completed on the biofilter media and if so, will the results be given to the PLC by January 10th

Realizing that these questions are far too technical for the average citizen to comprehend, the city has an obligation to communicate progress of this situation in layman’s terms.

While it’s early to fix any blame one thing is clear. There is blame to be attached, as this is a major mistake with apparent misuse of taxpayer’s money. At the least, the last thing is for members of the administration and Council to assess blame and account for it. Appointing a knowledgeable and independent individual to examine the facts, and report to the public, is the only transparent way to assess what happened.

We hope the problems are fixed soon because this huge investment has already been made. The cost of repairs and re-design will be daunting regardless of the final outcome.


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