Tag Archives: compost

Guelph’s befuddling $32 million compost experiment

The smells emanating from the new compost plant on Watson Road have oozed into the hallowed halls of city hall. The odour of voodoo financial management pervades as the city released a question and answer (Q and A) statement about the plant.

It is revealing in what the Q and A doesn’t answer as opposed to those provided.

The city acknowledges that the composting odour comes from the new plant. This is different from the first response in which it blamed the nearby Cargill plant for the problem.

The new plant stopped receiving green bag waste November 25 and it is now shipped to a St. Thomas landfill. This cost is stated “about $61 a tonne”. What is left out is the cost of shipping the clear bag garbage to St. Thomas, a practice that has been going on since cancellation of the contract to incinerate the waste in a New York State facility. That cost was $85 a tonne.

It is estimated by city officials that the contractor, Maple Reinders, will take at least six months to fix the odour problem and meet Ministry of Environment specifications. That could be sometime next May provided the repairs are completed.

The city says the cost of processing the green bag waste at the new plant is “about $79 a tonne”.

This is where things get murky.

Not included in that $79 operational estimate is the cost of borrowing the $32 million capital cost, depreciation of the facility, maintenance and insurance. Another fact is the cost of road repairs in the city caused by trucks delivering Waterloo waste to the Watson Road plant.

The interest rate must be included in the cost of operation of the facility. For example, let’s assume the city has borrowed the $32 million at an interest rate of 4%. That is $1,280,000 in interest per year alone not including repayment of principal.

The lifespan of the plant is estimated to be 20 years. If the $32 million debenture borrowed matures in that time frame, the cost of this misadventure is more than $57,600,000. That does not include the $15 million to be spent switching from plastic to green bins.

The city’s Q and A does not reveal the terms of the agreement with Maple Reinders. This contractor controls an outfit named Aim Environmental Group and its subsidiary Wellington Organix.

All three of these entities are getting a piece of the pie. Maple Reinders is designer and contractor to build the facility. Its subsidiary Wellington Organix operates the plant. And Aim Environmental negotiated the $117 price per tonne for the City of Waterloo to send its wet waste to Guelph.

That arrangement includes guaranteeing Waterloo access to two-thirds of the plant capacity.

So the taxpayers of Guelph have financed a wet waste composting plant to provide a service to another municipality that does not cover the real operating costs of the plant.

All liability lies with the taxpayers of Guelph.

If the city is paying $61 a tonne to send green bag waste to a St. Thomas landfill with no maintenance, depreciation or cost of capital affecting the price, one can only conclude the $79 operating cost of the new plant is vastly understated.

This is a project that has been riddled with lies of omission, secrecy, and management bungling. The only solution to clear the air is to hold a judicial enquiry to investigate what happened and expose the expenses of this failed project.

That giant sucking sound is your tax dollars being flushed down the toilet.


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How Guelph fumbled the compost plant debacle

Tribune columnist Alan Pickersgill whose views may be charitably described as left of centre in the political spectrum, sees the $32 million compost plant calamity as an opportunity.

Alan, I have to hand it to you, you are one blue-sky optimist.

He suggests that construction of the plant could have been a 3P project – public, private partnership. Well, that didn’t happen and was never considered. The taxpayers are on the hook for this debacle.

Name one 3P project that Guelph City Council has created in the past five years?

And the compost project won’t invite private investment. What private organization would partner with the city after what has occurred?

Now the downtown Library project is being considered as a 3P project. One of the problems with this theory is the financial track record of the Farbridge administration. The city finances are stretched to the limit and this makes them less than attractive as a partner. It is ludicrous that a large project such as the downtown library costing $53 million that any private enterprise would be interested. And that estimate is three years old.

What bothers most people is that the city lied about the source of the odours emanating from compost plant. Test runs using wet garbage started last September.

To now say through a barrage of press releases to the timid local media that the matter is under full investigation is like closing the barn door after the horse has been stolen. It is high irony that the city has hired an independent consultant costing $16,000 to review the situation,

Typical council pattern: When the stuff hits the fan, hire a consultant who rarely reports to the taxpayers.

Truth was stolen in this case and there must be an independent public enquiry to examine this disaster from inception to the present. If not, there will be half-baked promises and the Guelph Waste Coalition will balk at the first sniff, depending which way the wind blows.

No matter what the contractor does now or the city brain trust publishes, there will always be the threat of odour to create taxpayer conflict.

This is a long-term mistake that while haunt future councils and taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

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Guelph’s new compost plant failure revealed

Mayor Farbridge’s green dream is in trouble after two months of opening the new compost plant. The first effort took ten years to decay. This plant sets a new standard in fiscal irresponsibility

At a meeting held Tuesday night, November 29, city staff was unable to explain why the new $32 million compost plant was stinking up the neighbourhood. It appears that a vital heater to eliminate the odour problem was never installed in the fume stack.

Neighbours attending the meeting were annoyed to hear that the three city staffers were not aware of the cause of the odour problem. Janet Laird, Executive Director of engineering and environmental services, left the staffers out of the loop. Was this oversight deliberate?

According to my source, Laird was aware the equipment had not been installed and that modeling had indicated that the heater would facilitate the dispersion of the gases causing the odors. But she did not tell her subordinates who were sent to offer the angry citizens a phony story about Cargill processing operation causing the smells.

Cargill’s environmental support person attended the meeting and indicated that the company never had a complaint in the 25 years it has operated in this area. The company was annoyed that once again the city news releases attempted to blame local industry in this area. She assured the residents that Cargill takes the odor issue very seriously and requested that residents contact her directly with any odor concerns.

It was interesting to see who did not attend the meeting including Director Laird, nor a representative of the contractor nor the plant operator. The two ward councillors were attending a council meeting held the same night but their regrets were noted.

A representative of the Ministry of Environment identified some unusual behavior with the gases at the top of the stack. It is evident that the exhaust from the stack was heavier than the air at the top of the stack and this accounted for the unusual behavior of the exhaust gases. There appears to need the heater in the stack to disperse the odour to higher altitudes so as not to affect neighbourhoods.

What a schmozzle! It is beyond belief that the city administration, paid a $40,000 fine in 2007 over compost odours in the previous plant, has spent $32 million on a plant that has worse defects than the previous one.

The one person who managed this debacle is Janet Laird, the long time boss of waste management.

Now some residents in this area are seriously considering launching a class action lawsuit against the city and the developer for failing to solve the odour problem. Just what the city needs – another lawsuit!

Perhaps that may clear the air of the odour of secrecy and mismanagement that is the basis of this situation. (pun intended)

Mayor Farbridge it’s time for you to step up to the plate and clean this mess up.

You know what you have to do.

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Compost Karen Farbridge’s Crown Jewel

Compost: Karen’s crown jewel

So a report in the Mercury thinks that the operating cost of the waste management plant is “inappropriate and irrelevant”.

The article continued with using a comparison of moving from a basement apartment to a detached house. Your costs will increase.

Well, DUH!

The writer pursued  his argument that cost doesn’t matter by saying “most residents wanted the ability to deal with waste within our borders.”

Talk about toeing the company line. Did the writer see the survey that supported his claim? Does one even exist and if it does why wasn’t the writer more precise? Should a story this polarizing in the community contain some facts like the number of people polled, who did the polling and the figures showing those in favour and those opposed.

Naw. That didn’t happen because that $46 million dollar waste management system was conceived, discussed and approved in private with little public input. That’s what happened when there is a virtual dictatorship running the city.

Guelph’s pride in having its own waste management plant was cherry-picked by the City of Waterloo — it decided that renting was better than buying. It was pragmatic enough to piggy-back on the Guelph taxpayer at one third the estimated operating cost of the new facility.

The planning was so good on this project that an additional $14 million was required to convert the pick-up system to bins and automated trucks. The province refused to approve the project that was already under construction until this additional expense was committed.

This is not over and the real fallout is around the corner.

What is the city going to do with all that compost? The plant will allegedly produce tons of the stuff. How will it be stored and where?

The neighbours will not be amused when the wind blows from the southeast. But it won’t reach Waterloo.

Just ask the folks in Hamilton where the same style plant was built by the same company building Guelph’s model.


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