Tag Archives: Odour

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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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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