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.