City waste management is a $50 million blunder

Posted September 13, 2013

Thursday, September 12, the Guelph waste management invited the public to review the city’s waste management initiative and recent five-year record of performance.

The soiree was held at the Cutten Fields country club where the room was lined with display boards that detailed the progress of the waste management system that was approved in 2008. At the time it was labeled as a 25-year Solid Waste Master Management Plan or (SWMMP). The purpose of this open house was to review progress in the past five years that has become a 20-year solid waste master plan.

The city also provided some tasty Nanaimo bars and bottled water.

Conspicuously absent during our attendance were elected officials, the Executive Director of Waste Management, Dr. Janet Laird, or senior members of her staff. Instead, the job of informing the public was left to the hired guns, the consultant group conducting this dog and pony show.

Some dog and some pony.

A woman questioned a representative asking why the Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) was built with a capacity of three times the city’s needs. Response: It was built to meet the future needs of the city.

Then the lady asked why two thirds of the capacity was sold to the Region of Waterloo who have not used their quota? Response: They must pay for the contracted tonnage whether they use it or not.

The lady then asked if the city was in this for the money or to deal with its own waste?

Response: Mumbled, incomprehensive.

That brief exchange really sums up the mess the waste management department has made diverting solid waste from the landfill.

Here are some facts.

The $33 million organics waste facility financed by the taxpayers of Guelph, needed the support of other municipalities. What other reason could there be for building a facility that was triple the capacity of Guelph’s current and future needs of processing wet waste materials?

It has yet to reach capacity of processing 30,000 tonnes of wet waste per year.

In 2012, the OWPF processed 17,338 tonnes of which 15,048 tonnes was usable organic material. Some 3,414 tonnes of compost or 19.69 per cent of all wet waste processed at the plant, was sold for an undisclosed amount to an unnamed third party.

The Region of Waterloo delivered 9,100 tonnes of its contracted 20,000 tonnes in 2012. Prospect of this increasing is slim because collection of wet waste in the Region is voluntary in which only 35 per cent of households participate. Guelph supplied some 8,238 tonnes of wet waste

To offset the Region’s shortfall, Guelph waste management announced it was seeking other customers to use the facility because the Region is not meeting its commitment of 20,000 tonnes. The question remains, can the city sell capacity that contractually belongs to another party? Legally, this could be interpreted as “unjustified enrichment.”

Wherein lie figures and figures lie

Let’s go back to the original estimates that prompted city council in 2008 to approve this system. It was stated that Guelph would provide 10,000 tonnes of organic materials for processing. This has not occurred and in fact it fell short of the original estimate by 1,762 tonnes in 2012.

So when the lady questioned the rationale of building an organics facility that was triple the current needs of the city, she was told it was to meet future needs of Guelph. This was total misrepresentation of the facts.

First, the Places to Grow policy of the provincial government established the population of Guelph at 175,000 by 2030. That’s an additional 47,000 residents or 37 per cent of present population of 128,000 (StatsCan).

Doing the math that indicates that by 2030 the OWPF would process just 13,700 tonnes of organic material from the city that built the plant. That occurs some 17 years from now. The kicker is the facility has an estimated lifespan of 20 years. That will mean replacement or major retrofitting in 2030 dollars.

It is obvious the Farbridge administration is attempting to create a legacy of Guelph being a world leader in composting wet waste. The insult is that this ego trip is on the backs of the unsuspecting taxpayers.

This project was built with little regard to the waste management needs of Guelph. Taxpayers were only the means to the end. The waste management officials had to attract other users to make it work. Significant landfill diversion has yet to be proven. In 2012, 105,915 tonnes of waste and recyclables was processed at the Waste Handling Centre. Of that, 48 per cent or 48,540 tonnes, went to the landfill.

When the Mayor claims that a survey last year revealed 97 per cent of the 409 respondents were in favour of diverting material from the landfill, she is whistling past the graveyard considering the city’s attempt to meet that challenge that has failed dismally.

One thorn in the side of reason, is that 6,400 Guelph residents do not have city garbage pick-up but pay for the service. Private contractors haul away the waste of those homes, most of which goes directly in the landfill.

Words cannot describe how serious this misguided exercise is and it has already cost taxpayers millions. And it’s not going to get better. The city has put itself in a position where it is financing and guaranteeing a wet waste operation that is dependent on organic waste from other municipalities or commercial users.

It also ignores the collection needs of a large number of taxpayers.

The city employees running the show refuse to reveal financial details including operating costs per tonne, debt financing, contracts with third party operators of the facility, sources of revenue and depreciation, just to name a few.

To perpetuate this alarming charade has the potential of bringing city finances to its knees in the next few years.

Note: This is yet another example why GrassRoots Guelph was initiated by concerned citizens. The organization is dedicated to informing citizens of the operations of their city. The primary purpose is to increase the numbers of voters in the next civic election in 2014. The response to joining the organization has been overwhelming. Why not join today. GRG is non-partisan, non-profit and incorporated, Send your name, address, email address and telephone number to grassrootsguelph2014@gmail.com Welcome aboard!

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2 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “City waste management is a $50 million blunder

  1. geo

    Why does a City with a brand new over sized City Hall hold a public review at a private golf course?
    Who paid for this nonsense, as if we all don’t know the answer to that one, and how much did it cost?

  2. Jeff

    Recycling doesnt cost… it costs and costs and costs. People! Put everything in the grey bin/ clear bag— it’s about 1/7 the cost to dump it, than to have it sorted by well-paid and -pensioned public servants, and THEN pay to have the sorted ‘recyclables’ taken away. Wake up!

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