Down on Watson Road the world’s largest chemistry set is about to start accepting limited amounts of wet garbage to feed its hungry hoard of miniscule microbes. Known as the Wet Waste Management Plant, the chemical reaction of trillions of the little beasties is eagerly awaiting their munchies of sloppy wet garbage.
The theory is that these miracle micros turn the wet yucky stuff from our homes and businesses into lovely dry compost filled with natural nutrients. How to handle all that compost, that is created 365 days a year, has yet to be decided.
Well a funny thing happened as the microbe motel was fired up last September. Odours permeating the nearby residential neighbourhoods, as a result of this giant experiment in grand new digs, became a redux of an old problem.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The city, through its environmental services and engineering department under the leadership of garbage maven Janet Laird, had assured residents for the past three years that this would not happen.
We know now it did.
The plant stopped taking the wet waste on November 25 to permit an investigation of what went wrong.
About two weeks later in a press release, Executive Director Janet Laird promised the plant would be in full production by the end of December.
So much for that. Then it was announced that the Public Advisory Committee (PAC) would investigate the problems associated with the plant’s design and construction to determine responsibility and solutions.
That process has started and the PAC is meeting January 16 to examine data and study an action plan to fix the problems.
Already there have been leaks of information that point the finger at the design and construction of the plant by Maple Reinders.
The city’s responsibility in all this has been adroitly avoided by putting the onus of fixing the problem on the laps of the PAC. The mayor and her sidekick Laird have blended into the woodwork on this issue, leaving the hard decisions to a non-elected group of citizens and staff.
While it might be good politics, it is really an abdication of responsibility. At a time when real leadership is required, the Farbridge administration put the wagons in a circle to avoid public criticism.
The irony is that the Ministry of Environment (MOE) director for this area has stated that the plant’s certificate of approval did not include a “commissioning period.”
It has now been revealed that it will take from four to five months for the microbe motel to reach full production.
The bottom line: What is the payback? How will the city pay the capital costs of launching a $50 million waste management system? What are the real operating costs?
Look at it this way: We have a $33 million microbe motel that doesn’t work; a $2.5 million skating rink in front of city hall and a new $16 million civic museum built on someone else’s property. Add in the $10 million it will cost the city for the new WellingtonDufferinGuelph public health headquarters and the public coffers are empty.
Now that’s what I call voodoo fiscal management.