Latest compost plant test is a smelly one

Posted September 2, 2012

Our $34 million compost plant has flunked its second start-up test.

The test started in July and ended August 9.  Some 900 tonnes of wet waste was purchased from Hamilton to conduct the test.

Now it’s resulted in 25 odour complaints from residents.  The Ministry of Environment (MOE) has been advised and will determine if more modification to the plant is needed or not.

This plant opened a year ago and has been plagued with ongoing problems including an MOE directive that Guelph’s system of doorstep sorting waste into plastic bags could not be accepted at the new plant. Instead, council agreed on staff recommendation to spend another $15 million for waste bins and automated trucks to pick up and empty them.

That’s why the test waste material came from Hamilton.

It is noted that the 900 tons represents 10 per cent of the estimated 10,000 tons that the city would generate in a year. Guelph’s wet waste output is about 192 tonnes a week.

So why did council build a plant with a capacity of 1,153 tonnes a week?

The plant, built with taxpayer’s money, has a capacity of 60,000 tonnes per year.  To help meet that capacity, a subsidiary corporation of Maple Reinders, the designer and contractor of the plant, negotiated a deal with the Region of Waterloo to take its wet waste.

So our city council approved an arrangement where Guelph taxpayers are saddled with a huge debt and operational responsibility to supply waste treatment service to another municipality. The cost of carrying that $50 million at 5 per cent is $250,000 a year.

Now we are learning that this investment may not work.

On top of this, the contract with the Region of Waterloo has a penalty clause that kicks in January 2013. The detail is that it must deliver 20,000 tons of wet waste to the Guelph plant annually or pay a penalty.

So now what happens if the plant is unable to meet adequate production within the contracted time frame?

A year has already gone by without reaching full production or anywhere near it.

With this latest spate of odour complaints, it is apparent that two things are dreadfully wrong. Either the plant construction and/or the design is faulty and is the responsibility of Maple Reinders.

We don’t have to travel far to see a similar compost operation in South London that is under fire for the discharge of foul odours. Citizens are picketing the three-year old plant in protest.

Is this going to happen in Guelph?

Without remorse, this council that approved this dodgy scheme, is silent. Likewise the executive director of the environment and waste management, Janet Laird, must take full responsibility for creating this debacle.

Instead of being on the job in August when this critical test concluded, many of the key players were nowhere to be found.

This management team and council also decided to replace plastic bags with a $15 million waste bin collection system.

The irony is that the province banned petroleum-based plastic bags but allowed biodegradable bags to be used. This rule change was ignored by Guelph planners when reported by the MOE in 2009.

Summing up, we have spent an estimated $50 million on a waste management system that is six times bigger than we need, does not work and we still don’t know the cost to operate.

Not all the odours about this deal are emanating from the plant.





Filed under Between the Lines

10 responses to “Latest compost plant test is a smelly one

  1. geo

    Call your councillor and demand an explanation. Then in 2014 refer back to that explanation, if you are fortunate enough to get one, when your deciding who to vote for.

  2. geo

    Have a look at this link from London if your curious about what we here in Guelph have to look forward to.

  3. Jerry

    I am just wandering how the farbridge gurus of media relations are going
    to spin this to the positive.I say impossible but but hey i did see a blue
    moon last night and a couple of pigs flying around..
    It will also be interesting how the mercury and tribune play this out.

  4. Jeff Burke

    <<>> But, Gerryyyyyy, you are only considering the externalities. What about the Earth’s externalities? If we didn’t buy the garbage (oops, waste resource) from Waterloo and Hamilton, they would dump it in Lake Ontario next to the water intake.
    Everything in the clear bag!!

    • Jeff Burke: For the record we bought 900 tonnes from Hamilton for the test. Waterloo, on the other hand, is the city’s first customer to use our new $33 million plant…that doesn’t work. In short, they pay us, I think! Details of this project are locked inside the Farbridge wall of silence.

  5. Jeff Burke

    Ah, those messy, smelly externalities:
    We lose on every tonne we process for KW.

  6. Paul

    I happened to be up early last week and watched the Garbage Truck load up the waste. It was a 3 bag week – green, blue and clear. All three bags were thrown in the same bin and crushed.
    Just another example of the failed “leadership” from the Mayor and her eco-cronies. Where are all the letters and articles of support from all her cronies? It will be time to settle this issue in the next election.

    • Paul: If this is true, why are citizens being forced to pre-sort garbage? This plastic bag system was introduced by the first-term Farbridge council in 2002. Looks to me that because they can’t get their new $34 million compost plant operating, Guelph’s garbage is being dumped in the St. Thomas landfill. Or were the garbage collectors having a bad hair day?

  7. Paul

    According to those members of staff who will talk about it- if (i.e. OFTEN)there is a shortage of garbage vehicles the single garbage truck is sent out on each route that is having a clear week pickup. And YES that waste is sent to landfill. What the Mayor’s eco-cronies hope is that no citizens will notice!! Unfortunately the two local NO-“news” sources completely ignore the TRUTH of what is really happening. But what else can you expect from the Editor of the Mercury who allowed a spouse to nominate his wife for the 40-under-40 group. Journalistic-Ethics and Integrity are dead in Guelph. At least they should be given a decent funeral..
    Did anyone notice that the Tribune completely ignored the 25 ODOR COMPLAINTS on this second feeble attempt to get the Ministry’s OKAY?
    How did the Mayor get the MOE to reassign the lady who was a pain to the eco-goal. Time for the MMA to do a serious audit on this “showcase” pipedream..

    • Paul: I think we are aware that the two print news sources are corporate controlled. That’s the way it is. However, you raise some interesting points. The missteps and cronyism that pervades our city administration is sticking in a lot of people’s craw. The focus is to expose the questionable decisions and actions of the majority of this council that we, the silent majority, object to. Thanks for your comment and tell your friends to drop into for the real skinny of what is happening in our city.

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