Tag Archives: Compost plant

There they go again, putting the cart before the horse

Posted June 20, 2012

First. they built a $33 million wet waste composting plant that has yet to reach operation.

Then they announced the residents would start using carts, bins, whatever current bureaucratic nomenclature calls them, to collect their waste instead of the three-bag plastic bag system.

Now the planning and building, engineering and environment committee of Council has amended the bylaw stating the bins may be stored in any exterior location except in the front yard where they must be located adjacent to a building or fence.

Maybe you could put your bins on the front lawn and plant a flower garden around them.

Coun. Bob Bell stated the obvious that row-housing residents should not be forced to store their bins in front of the home. Logic would dictate there is a front and a back of a connected row house and no easy access to the rear to bring the bins around to the front curb.

So there you have it.

The city builds a compost plant that isn’t working after eight months of testing. The province informs the city that wet waste in plastic bags cannot be delivered to the plant. Solution, upgrade the entire waste collection system costing more than $15 million buying bins/carts for every home and business and special trucks to pick the containers up.

Now they figure out that many homes in the city cannot store the big bins due to a lack of garage or front yard space.

Was this huge project really thought out before it was executed?

Citizens are waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Did they consider moving the heavy bins to the curb in winter when snowfall hits the city or temperatures drop?

What about seniors? Can they cope with manhandling large bins to the roadside?

What about vermin getting into the bins and spreading the contents?

How are odours controlled if bins are stored inside?

What happens to those folks who are physically unable to get the bins to the curb?

How is vandalism going to be controlled?

Did anyone on Janet Laird’s staff bring these matters up before the contract was executed?

You can take great comfort in the fatuous statement by committee chairperson Coun. Leanne Piper: “I have great confidence the citizens of Guelph will be great neighbours.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

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She never promised us a rose garden

Posted June 11, 2012

At a recent meeting of the Public Liaison Committee overseeing the new $33 million compost plant, members were told that “this is a waste facility and I don’t think we can guarantee there will never be odours.

This was in a letter by Janet Laird, Executive Director of Planning and Building, Engineering and Environment and point person on the compost plant project. I don’t think they print business cards that can handle that title.

First some background.

From 2003 to 2006 the council led by Mayor Karen Farbridge maintained a policy of composting of wet waste. That council also introduced the three plastic bag system to households. During that period, it is interesting to note that Ms. Laird was the person in charge of the management of waste in the city.

In 2006, a new council was elected under the leadership of Mayor Kate Quarrie. It was apparent from the get-go that the compost plant, a metal building, was a management nightmare exhausting extreme odours, a deteriorating structure due to chemical reactions of the composting and creating a safety hazard for employees.

The neighbours formed the Guelph Waste Management Coalition under the leadership of Ken Spira. The group complained bitterly of the smells emanating from the original plant and flowing into nearby neighbourhoods.

Council listened and shut the plant down, the manager was terminated and the wet waste was shipped to a New York State incinerator. It’s important to note that cost of this waste removal was $85 a tonne.

In 2006, Karen Farbridge swept back into office along with 10 members of council who supported her policies.

Enter Janet Laird with a new proposal to reinvent the composting of Guelph’s wet waste.

She now denies promising there would be no odours from the proposed plant. During the planning and public hearings, it was emphasized that the plant would be odour free.

The planning by Director Laird’s staff did not include any alternative to handling the wet waste other than building a new composting plant. It was proclaimed that the plant would be state of the art in handling the city’s wet waste.

But then things started going off the rails.

The final design of the plant approved a capacity that was three times the city’s needs for the next 20 years.

The successful contractor, Maple Reinders, said one of its associated companies would negotiate with Waterloo to have its wet waste processed in the new plant.

At the same time, questions were raised about the cost of the city operating the plant. Estimates by Guelph Waste Management Coalition calculated the cost would be $342 a tonne. That was more than twice the price to be paid by Waterloo.

To this day, after eight months of operation, the Laird department has not released the real operating costs of the plant. Also, the plant has never reached operational capacity.

Now, one would think that such a huge project would be thoroughly examined by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) along with the assigned city officials.

Along came a major curve ball with the MOE stating the plant could not receive waste in plastic bags. The decision was made to spend another $15 million to supply bins to households and custom trucks to empty the bins.

Was this never considered in the design phase of the plant?  Or was it submerged to avoid a negative public reaction before the plant was built?

Meanwhile, in her letter, Ms. Laird upset the Public Liaison Committee by stating that the odour complaints made last November “had not been verified.” She further chastised residents commenting they “should not be encouraged to report faint odours.

This plant commenced operation last September. It was halted from November to February when more testing was done with small amounts of wet waste.

Now the city is importing 900 tonnes of wet waste from Hamilton, starting in July, for a six-week test to determine if the plant is meeting all terms of the contract.

This project, foisted on an uninformed public, is an example of arrogance by the Farbridge administration that is consumed with the environment.

Indeed, a rose by any other name.

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Disturbing new questions about Guelph’s compost plant

Thanks to Public Advisory Committee (PAC) member Ken Spira it appears that there are some glaring questions raised about contract changes.

One was a power booster rough-in costing $59,500 that was not part of the original contract.

Another was an acid scrubber that was not part of the original Maple Reinders proposal, but $25,000 was added to the budget for a rough-in of the equipment.

In both cases, the actual cost of the power booster and acid scrubber was not included and the units were not installed.

This is part of the information the PAC will have to parse and comment on in its effort to examine and determine the causes of the plant’s failure to meet environmental standards.

Bill Bardswick, Ministry of Environment Director of West Central Region, was asked if the Certificate of Approval allowed for a “ commissioning or phasing-in period” after the September start-up. He responded NO.

This is only the beginning of the investigation into why the plant failed to curb odours.

Questions citizens should ask include:
Who was minding the store during the run-up of the contract before awarding it to Maple Reinders?
Who in the city administration was overseeing the contract and construction?
Who ordered the change notices?
Who was responsible for due diligence during the design and construction phase?
Who decided to go with a design and construction company that employed two subsidiaries to sell capacity
and operate the facility?

This situation is no trivial matter. There are millions invested in this plant and the PAC has its hands full to discover what happened.

Three citizens of the neighbourhood most affected by the outflow of the plant serve on the PAC group composed of seven members. Two members are employees of the Peel Region waste operations.

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