The secret report the city doesn’t want you to see

Posted June 7, 2012

By a circuitous course a report about Guelph’s new $33 million compost plant has fallen into our hands.

This report carries a warning it may contain “information that is privileged and confidential.”  Further, “dissemination, distribution or copying this communication is strictly prohibited.”

Before certain councillors demand an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner, whose recent report has been labeled “old Yellar”, this report about the compost plant operations is in the public domain once posted on the Internet.

The astonishing aspect is the lengths that this city administration will go to suppress, obfuscate, threaten and deny information to which the public is entitled.

It’s treating us like mushrooms who must be kept in the dark.

These actions are directed from the top of the hierarchy with the Mayor and Chief Administration Officer calling the shots. The remaining city staffers only follow orders.

The city’s proposal to test the Watson Road compost plant for six weeks was accepted by the Ministry of the Environment. (MOE)

Here’s the skinny on the wet waste that is supposed to turn into fluffy organic compost. Citizens would be interested to learn where it’s coming from and how much Source Separated Organics (SSO) from outside Guelph will arrive at the plant.

Starting the week of July 9th, the management wants to load 50 tons into the system. A total of 900 tonnes of SSO material will be gradually installed in the plant in the following six weeks.

The purpose is to have the contractor operate the facility for three weeks at maximum capacity without any environmental or other operating issues. This will confirm the terms of the compost plant contract are being met.

This plant was started up last September. There were serious operational problems including odors coming out of the stack and drifting into neighbourhoods. There is now a question of whether this plant will ever operate as designed after ten months of tinkering and adjusting.

Stepping up to the plate is the City of Hamilton. It will happily ship wet waste to the Guelph plant. Some of Guelph’s separated wet garbage is also part of the SSO tonnage required for this test.

When fully operational, Guelph’s contribution is less than one/third of the designed capacity of SSO conversion to compost.  Waterloo is contracted to supply 20,000 tonnes of SSO a year but is currently only generating 10,000 tonnes a year.

Guelph was unable to supply enough for the six-week test so Hamilton came to the rescue.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We spent $33 million to build a plant that we cannot supply enough SSO material in the future to keep it running, even with the help of Waterloo.

General Contractor Maple Reinders controls the three companies that designed and built the plant, manages the operation plus the third related company negotiated the deal with Waterloo. Also Maple Reinders built the Hamilton plant. Coincidence?

Two thoughts come to mind: What incentives, if any, were offered to expedite this deal?  And, who approved spending $33 million to build a plant that has a capacity that this city will never use in the next 20 years?

Add in the $15 million required to supply bins to city properties and the special trucks required to collect the bins once placed curb side.

The odours coming out of the stack at the new plant are not confined to Guelph’s new mega garbage disposal; some is drifting toward Carden Street.

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