How the Farbridge administration fumbled incinerating waste for power in 2007

Posted June 18, 2014

This fall the Region of Durham will open its new waste, incineration power facility in Clarington. It will be a first for Ontario on such a scale to process all of the region’s homes and businesses plus a portion of neighbouring York Region.

It is estimated that some 650,000 people will experience their garbage being turned into electricity plus intensive recycling of materials not suitable for incineration.

The per person cost of the Durham undertaking is $436 based on a capital cost of $284 million. This does not include the operating costs, much of which is covered by selling excess power into the provincial grid.

Durham officials predict that when fully operational, the plant will cut waste diversion to the landfill by 70 per cent.

In 2007, the newly elected Karen Farbridge council rejected incineration as a solution to managing its waste. Instead, they chose to rebuild an organic waste facility on the same site as the one that was condemned and originally built under the previous Farbridge led council.

That facility was closed in 2006 when its operations violated the Ministry of Environment regulations governing emissions. The city was fined and the manager fired.

Suppose the Farbridge Council had proceeded with an incineration plant that produced power from waste, instead of the organic waste processing facility. To service 175,000 residents by the year 2031, as established by the provincial government “Places to Grow” directive, the plant cost was estimated $120 million in 2007. This is 42 per cent less than the Durham plant cost in 2014, but so is the client base that is smaller by 26.9 per cent.

This estimate considers site preparation, regulatory approvals, public education, electric grid agreements, and sale of power to other communities.

The per-person capital cost would have been $685 spread over a 24-year period, not including the operational costs. These costs would have been offset by selling power to the Ontario grid and providing the waste for power service to other nearby communities.

The city maintains the new Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF) cost $34 million. It was built by Maple Reinders and operated by a subsidiary company, Aim Environmental.

The per-person cost of this facility is $265.6 based on the current population of 128,0000. Again the costs of operation and revenue stream from the sale of compost, are unknown

The entire organic waste project is shrouded in secrecy. No reason has been given regarding why the plant was built with Ministry of Environment approval of six times the needs of the city for the next 20 years.

While hindsight is 20/20, there was a mindset among the majority of council that incineration was bad for the environment. No attempt was made to investigate why Europe has hundreds of such plants without threatening the environment.

This mindset was the by-product of a failed attempt to process wet waste during the first Farbridge term of office, 2000 to 2003. It was a failure then and it is a failure now. The millions that have been spent to establish the Waste Resource Innovation Centre on Dunlop Drive, has sucked up capital funds like a Hoover vacuum cleaner.

It’s just one of the reasons why there is no money to build a new downtown library or south-end recreation centre or public parking downtown or a new police headquarters.

Yet this administration, hide-bound by developing long-term strategic plans for the city, fails to do the work that meets the immediate needs of citizens.

This Farbridge focus has now led the city into a multi-million error in judgment come the settling the Urbacon city hall lawsuit costs. This lengthy dispute was recently lost by the city.

This is real, folks. They talk about analyzing the actual judgment and the possibility of appeal. But this is not going to go away or get covered up.

It is yet another example of gross mismanagement of the city’s business by the Farbridge administration.

Eight years of this and now she wants to be re-elected?




Filed under Between the Lines

3 responses to “How the Farbridge administration fumbled incinerating waste for power in 2007

  1. Glen N. Tolhurst

    The “hallmark” of the mayor and her 7 tax & spend buddies and the administration would appear to be technical and financial illiteracy. Look at the number of capital items that have been royally fubar’d. “Lowbridge” ring any bells? Given the typical record of snafu’s little wonder openness and transparency are paid only lip service via an expensive consultant engagement, when not totally ignored. They are too concerned with grandiose strategic visions of the future and touchy-feely surveys to touch base with reality. Their hands on the residents’ wallets is appalling.

  2. Milton Burns

    According to the Durham Region the new incinerator will have operating costs of $14.7 million and revenue from electrical sales of $8.5 million and $250 – 750,000 from metal sales. Assuming the lower metal sales, Durham will have total operating cost of $6.0 million or $9.23 per capita.

    Guelph steadfastly refused to give operating cost due to competitive reasons, so they claim. Could it be that they are using this as an excuse due to the embarrassingly high cost levels.

    Using data supplied to the Ministry of Municipalities it can be calculated that the operating costs for recycling alone totals $7.4 million or $61.54 dollars per capita. That 660% higher than that projected for the Durham Region.

  3. geo

    That’s what Guelph is for now. Other Municipalities have a look at what’s going on in the Royal City to see how not to do things!

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