Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

Waste system critic hopes Guelph council rejects green bin liners

Scott Tracey, Mercury staff Wed Nov 21 2012

GUELPH—Using the new waste collection carts will get a little less yucky if city councillors next week approve a bylaw amendment which would allow the use of compostable liners inside green carts.

But one outspoken critic is still hopeful council will reject them.

Ken Spira, president of watchdog group Guelph Waste Management Coalition, is concerned the liners will mean more waste in the system and could cause problems with the processing system and end product.

“The bags themselves might not completely break down, but there is also the issue of the plastic packaging that these bags come in,” Spira said. “There will be a big demand for these (compostable) bags which will result in more waste generally.

“It doesn’t really hold true to the low carbon footprint approach to be intentionally introducing new plastic waste to the system,” Spira charged.

Earlier this month, the city received from the province an amendment to the certificate of approval for the new organics processing facility on Dunlop Drive. That amendment allows the use of compostable plastic liners, which had previously been prohibited.

The Ministry of Environment agreed to revisit the prohibition after Ottawa-based composter Orgaworld Canada won an appeal of a similar restriction on its certificate of approval.

This week, the planning and building, engineering and environment committee endorsed a bylaw amendment allowing the compostable liners.

Spira is concerned continuing to use plastic bags of any kind will result in a lower-quality compost at the end of the process. He points to a 2011 staff report expressing concern that compostable products may not completely break down in the composting process, and that it can be difficult to distinguish between compostable and non-compostable plastic bags.

Spira also points to a 2009 position paper issued by the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario. That paper suggests residents and businesses should be discouraged from using biodegradable or compostable plastic packaging or products.

“Increasing numbers of these packaging materials in the Municipal diversion programs can be expected to reduce the efficiency of processing operations and the quality of recovered products,” the paper reads.

However, Erin Mahoney, current chair of the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario, said the position paper was in response to an increasing frequency of “rigid-type” containers being marketed as compostable.

Residents were putting those plant-based containers in their blue boxes believing them to be petroleum-based plastic, and unintentionally contaminating the recyclable stream.

Mahoney, who is the environmental commissioner in York Region, said the purpose of the paper was never to discourage the use of certified compostable bags. York switched to such bags more than a year ago.

Dean Wyman, Guelph’s general manager of solid waste resources, was in a meeting Wednesday and unavailable for an interview. In an email, Wyman noted the compost currently being marketed from the Guelph facility, even with the use of regular non-compostable bags, meets “compost guidelines class A.”

Wyman also wrote the new waste collection trucks are equipped with cameras that allow the operators to monitor what is inside all waste carts, and that compostable bags are generally different colours than non-compostable bags so operators will be able to spot improper bags.

Spira said while the city is “preaching the yuck factor” to support the use of compostable bags, he suspects the true reason for the bylaw amendment is to allow Guelph to import organic waste from other municipalities where such bags are used.

During a recent email exchange, a city staff member wrote to Spira that the city is currently unable to receive organics from other municipalities “due to the fact that there are no other municipalities in the Province of Ontario that are able to send their (organics) for processing because of the current plastic bag restriction.”

That doesn’t sit well with Spira.

“Importing source-separated organics from other centres seems to have crept right up to the top of the list of priorities,” he said. “I can’t see there’s a benefit to Guelph becoming the garbage capital of Ontario.

“It’s not encouraging people to look after their own waste, which is something the city preaches constantly.”

Wyman denied being able to accept waste from other municipalities was the key factor.

“The main driver to amend the (certificate) was to allow Guelph residents the same choice of liners for their green carts as their friends/relatives have in other municipalities,” Wyman wrote.

Councillors will consider the bylaw amendment at their meeting next Monday evening.

Guelph Mercury - Sat Oct 13 2012

Plans to process U.S. waste a hypocritical move

Re: City looks at processing U.S. waste — Oct. 4

I understood that one of the biggest reasons for building a compost facility in Guelph after closing down the Eastview landfill site was so that we would do the “environmentally responsible thing” and take all of our trucks off of the road that were carrying compost to the U.S., and deal with our own waste problem in our own community.

Does this application to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to take waste from the U.S. not run counter to those “visionary and founding reasons” for the need to build our own facility?

If protecting the environment and reducing carbon dioxide emissions is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of the thought process that went into building this facility in Guelph, how does enabling other communities in other countries to truck their waste to Guelph help us meet our environmental objectives?

If the city has no issue with trucking waste in, why did they have a problem with trucking waste out? Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars building, and then rebuilding, staffing and operating our own compost facility when we could have just trucked our waste someplace else for a fraction of the cost to taxpayers?

It’s the biggest and most blatantly hypocritical move I’ve seen yet from this theatre of the absurd that is the Guelph Waste Resource Innovation Centre.

The Guelph Waste Resource Innovation Centre: “Where we turn millions of your tax dollars into compost.”

Stephen Robson


Chris Seto, Mercury staff  Wed Oct 03 2012

GUELPH — The City of Guelph is hunting for more waste materials to process at its recycling facility and has expanded its search to south of the border.

Guelph’s Materials Recovery Facility was permitted to process recyclable material from throughout Ontario when it began operations in 2003. Recently, however, a newly built 100,000-tonne capacity facility in Cambridge has diverted much of the materials from getting to the Guelph plant.

The city recently submitted an application to the Ministry of the Environment requesting permission to take in recyclable material from municipalities in New York and Michigan to fill the void.

Residents living near the Guelph facility on Dunlop Drive received a notification in their mailboxes on Tuesday, informing them of the city’s proposal.

The application to the ministry involves making an amendment to the facility’s current agreement that stipulates which areas it is allowed to collect waste materials from.

“There is only so much recyclable materials in Ontario,” Dean Wyman, the city’s general manager of solid waste resources, said Wednesday. “Competition for that material is fairly fierce.”

Wyman said turning to municipalities in the United States is “just business contingency planning.” With the new Waste Management Inc. plant up and running in Cambridge, he said the city is not yet sure how much material will be redirected there instead of coming to the Guelph facility.

“Just a normal course of business — if you lose a client, we have to go source another client, and we may have found tonnage from New York state,” he said.

Ken Spira, who lives near the facility and is president of Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc., said taking in materials from outside of the city is a bad idea.

“It does obviously bother me and I think it should bother most of the residents of Guelph that we’re even importing anybody’s waste from outside of the city,” he said Wednesday.

Spira said city staff is not being fair to the taxpayers by bringing the application to the Ministry instead of putting it before city council.

“The process, giving staff the freedom to make amendments to that facility without going through council, is wrong.”

He also said the idea of bringing in waste from the United States goes against the waste diversion principles set out by the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry seeks to reduce the waste we create, reuse the waste we create and recycle the waste we do not reuse.

“This waste didn’t come from us,” Spira said.

He said if the city starts bringing in materials from the United States, this will only add more waste to landfills from residual garbage that could be created.

Wyman said the city is currently waiting for the approval of the ministry before it can begin talks with the American municipalities to see how much waste might be brought to the Guelph facility.

Residents have been given until Oct. 12 to submit their concerns or objections in writing to the Ministry of the Environment, care of Tesfaye Gebrezghi, at 2 St. Clair Ave. W., Floor 12A, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1L5.

Guelph Speaks - Gerry Barker - July 28, 2012

The City of Guelph is asking the Ministry of Environment if it can accept plastic bags of wet garbage in its $33 million Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF).

The official title of the plant is the tony “Waste Resource Innovation Centre.” But what’s in a name?

Now, before we begin, let’s establish the definition of “plastic”.  This application is to be allowed to accept biodegradable plastic collection bags.

Since 2002, citizens have been sorting their waste in tri-coloured plastic bags. The kind that take 1,000 years to degrade.

This was a system created in 2001 by then Mayor Karen Farbridge and her environmental sidekick Janet Laird, chief of waste management for the city.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but the Mayor was defeated in the following election.

Mayor Farbridge was re-elected in 2006 and proceeded to turn Guelph into the organic waste disposal capital of Ontario along with a public relations campaign declaring Guelph as the best place to live, lowest crime rate in the country and, oops, the highest debt in Ontario.

But the plot sickens.

Let’s see. In 2008, Ms. Laird pulls together an idea to build a $33 million wet waste plant. It was to be built on the former wet waste plant site that was shut down because of smelling up the neighbourhood and being mismanaged. This time, like the phoenix, a new waste management plant would arise and meet the needs of the City of Guelph for more than 25 years.

Indeed, it was predicted that wet waste from other municipalities would create a profit centre for the city.

Who would know better than the staff directed by the Mayor and her fellow travelers on council?

Along came Guelph’s Titanic

So the deal was hatched and a company was engaged to build the plant, run it and negotiate contracts with other municipalities to feed the plant to meet its 60,000 tonnes per year capacity.

By comparison, that’s more than the 46,325 gross tonnage of the RMS Titanic. And we know what happened to that ship.

Can anyone imagine plunking  a vessel the size of the Titanic at the Dunlop Drive facility, plus another 14,000 tonnes.

Why build such an oversized plant at the Guelph taxpayer’s expense? Perhaps it was driven by some power egos determined to prove their inflated global theories of waste management.

For the record, Guelph generates about 10,000 tonnes of wet waste a year or 15 per cent of its Titanic-plant capacity.

Instead, in 2008, at the height of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the staff and majority of elected councillors, operating beyond the glare of public input, signed the deal with Maple Reinders Construction.

The plant started operating September 11, 2011. It has yet to produce contracted volumes of reusable compost.

In fact, the current test run to bring the plant up to its contracted production is not using wet waste from Guelph but importing 900 tonnes, over six weeks, from Hamilton.

Did we mention the stuff was coming in plastic bags, the kind that takes 1,000 years to degrade?

In the fall of 2011, there were complaints of odours from nearby residents. The contractor was instructed to remedy the complaints.

The plant was missing the parts to eliminate odours

Seems some important parts, including ammonia scrubbers, were left out of the construction. This caused leaks. escaping from the stack, to stink up the neighbourhood.

Momma Mia! The whole plan created by Ms. Laird and her team was to eliminate air-borne smells. The plant was not ready to meet neighbouring long-standing odour complaints.

The bottom line. The plant takes in tonnes of wet waste and by a process based on microbiology, magically turns the waste into reusable compost. There are complications. The temperature year round must be within a range to permit the microbes to do their appointed task. If it’s too hot they lay down on the job. If it’s too cold the same thing happens. Meanwhile, the trucks keep rolling in to dump their waste. Not only from Guelph, but now we learn from the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.

That means wet waste from Kitchener, Waterloo and other parts of the Regional Municipality, is heading for Guelph for processing. Is that a great investment or what?

Along came a $15 million spider.

Then, in the middle of the construction phase, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) informs the city it cannot use its current plastic bag collection system. The city council approves spending an additional $15 million to convert waste collection to an automated system employing special trucks and bins.

The bill to Guelph taxpayers has now reached $50 million. That’s $33 million for the plant, $15 million for the new bin collection system plus another $2 million for carrying charges and design changes.

Let’s recap at this point.

Council and staff have committed taxpayers to paying $50 million for a system that has yet to work. Unknowingly, taxpayers are financing a large scale regional Organic Waste Processing Facility (OWPF), the payback of which is uncertain.

Now the city is appealing to the MOE to allow waste to be delivered not in “plastic “ bags but in biodegradable “plastic” bags produced by an Ontario company.

Let’s get this straight. The city commits to spending $50 million, only to discover there exists the option of using bio-degradable plastic bags to collect the waste. The MOE issued a draft of new guidelines in 2009 that would allow the use of biodegradable plastic bags, provided the composting facility was designed to handle the material.

Despite this advice, Council agreed to spend $15 million on a new bin collection system. The decision was based on the MOE denial of using petroleum-based plastic bags in new organic waste facilities, as has been the case in the city for almost ten years.

But that was not quite true, was it?

Was there no discussion between the city, Maple Reinders and the province about the availability of bio-degradable plastic bags before the $15 million decision was made?

There was no business plan for the project

Now taxpayers are stuck with a $15 million bill, a $33 million plant that is very seriously overbuilt and this was all done without a business plan. That’s one of the reasons why the city refuses to make public the real operating costs of the plant, including the 21st century automated-collection system.

Already there is a citizen’s revolt over the bin deal with many questions yet to be answered by staff. Just remember, the days of heavy snow storms will cripple collection of wet waste and back-up receiving material at the plant.

This is a monumental mistake and Guelph citizens are stuck with a disposal system that will take years to pay off. Furthermore it is dependent on the bulk of inbound feedstock coming from other municipalities.

Some questions needing answers

Who made the decision to build a plant with a 60,000 tonne capacity a year, with the City of Guelph only supplying 10,000 tonnes of wet waste per year?

What is the plan to get rid of potential tonnes of composted material? Think Titanic, think big.

What are the real operating costs of the venture?

What profits, if any, can be expected?

What damages will be done to Guelph roads from garbage trucks, from other municipalities, bringing material to the plant?

Who decided to spend an additional $15 million to convert the waste collection system to automated trucks and bins?

When did the city learn that bio-degradable plastic bags containing wet waste would be acceptable at the plant for conversion to compost.

Why wasn’t the public informed of the contract agreements between Maple Reinders Contracting and its subsidiary companies that are part of the waste management plan?

This is a dereliction of responsibility on the part of city Council that has placed this heavy burden on the taxpayers.


Is new compost plant also destined to fail?

Guelph Mercury - May 2, 2012

Dear editor:

Some Guelph municipal staffers are having a hissy fit over a Ministry of the Environment air facility inspection report for the organics plant.

The document is clear that the city has not complied with the facility’s certificate of approval in numerous areas and that’s exactly what reports like these are designed to do.

The report is excellent, accurate and comprehensive. While most would use it as a guideline toward successfully operating the plant, city staff responses would like it changed to list what they did fix in their recent action plan to address odour issues, and that everything else should be overlooked.

The author of the report had been working very well with both facility staff and neighbours to ensure success of the new compost plant and she suddenly got transferred to another area when she and her supervisor refused to change her report to the wording wanted by the city. Why?

I think this facility is starting to go down the same road as the previous disaster, but at a quicker and more political pace.

Donna Sunter


Guelph Mercury April 27 2012

Scott Tracey

GUELPH – Janet Laird’s ears must have been ringing Thursday night.

One day after firing off a tersely-worded response to a Ministry of Environment report outlining air quality inspections at the city’s organics processing facility, Laird was conspicuously absent from a committee meeting at which the issue was discussed.

And it was clear the city’s executive director of planning and building, engineering and environment was the person with whom members of the public liaison committee most wanted to liaise.

The ministry’s air inspection report was received by the city earlier this month, but just became public this week after Laird finished drafting the city’s response to concerns with the document.

Liaison committee chair Mike Fortin suggested deferring discussion of the two documents until a later meeting.

“There’s a lot of material and we’ve hardly had any time to review it,” Fortin said, calling the documents “technical and contentious” in nature.

But it was clear some members of the committee were much more concerned about the city’s response than the original ministry report.

In her letter to ministry district manager Jane Glassco, Laird took issue with the tone of the report authored by environmental officer Lynnette Armour.

“While we accept your assurance that Ms. Armour intended (the report) to be fair and accurate, we do not believe that this is the result,” Laird wrote to Armour’s boss.

“Fundamentally, the Report does not convey the enormous compliance efforts that have been made, the challenges that had to be overcome, or the positive results that (have) been achieved,” Laird wrote.

The city’s new organics processing plant opened last September on Dunlop Drive. After several odour complaints were received from residents in the area during November the city voluntarily stopped accepting new organic waste as it worked with the ministry and facility operator Wellington Organix to explore and address the cause of the odours.

At Thursday’s meeting, Glassco told the committee the ministry is pleased with the current functioning of the plant, which resumed accepting organics in mid-February.

“The plant is operating well right now and hopefully will continue to do so,” Glassco said.

In her letter, Laird suggested the source of most of the odour complaints have not been verified and that residents should not be encouraged to complain about “faint odours.”

This rubbed Laura Marini the wrong way.

“She’s trying to candy-coat the situation,” the area resident and committee member said. “This goes right back to them making us in the neighbourhood feel like we’re not telling the truth about these odours.

“The bottom line is there were no odour complaints from the day (a previous organics facility) shut down until this one opened, but they’re still playing the card that the source of the odours can’t be confirmed,” Marini said.

“It’s insulting to our intelligence, it really is,” agreed her neighbour, Ken Spira, who is also a committee member.

Laird’s letter alleges the ministry report promotes an “adversarial approach” of not working together with the neighbourhood and “encourages neighbourhood conflict.”

Spira scoffed at that.

“It’s 100 per cent the opposite,” he said. “It’s responses like that from the city that really get under the skin of the neighbourhood.”

The liaison committee voted to request Laird’s presence at a special meeting in about one month’s time to discuss the ministry report and the city’s response to it.

“The primary benefit of that meeting will be to get the city and the neighbourhood on the same page … and an airing of the frustrations on both sides,” Fortin said.

Rob O’Flanagan, Mercury staff - December 19, 2011

GUELPH — The bugs are getting cold.

As city officials and the designers of Guelph’s new Organic Waste Processing Facility work to fix the operational bugs at the plant, the tiny organisms that make the system work are now at a real risk of being frozen into dormancy.

If that happens, officials said Monday, the plant will have to start from scratch.

That was the word of warning during a three-hour meeting of the public liaison committee struck to oversee mitigation of the odour problems that plagued the early startup phase of the facility.

About 20 people attended the meeting, including members of the Maple Reinders Group Ltd. design team, several city waste management officials, three ministry officials, composting experts and members of the public.

Ken Spira, president of the community action group Guelph Waste Management Coalition and a member of the public liaison committee, stressed throughout the meeting that any action plan must ensure above all else that residents near the plant will not have to deal with odours again.

“We need assurances that we won’t be dealing with ongoing odours,” he said. “We don’t want to have to worry about that ever again.”

Ministry, city and Maple Reinders officials made assurances that odour-free operation is the goal, but that goal can’t be reached until the plant is running at normal levels and the measures of an action plan are tested. And that will have to happen soon or the biofilters in the plant could freeze up.

Theo Van Wely, president of Aim Environmental Group, the Maple Reinders partner running the facility, said there is now an urgency to start receiving organic material — so-called source separated organics.

The city halted shipments of green bag waste to the facility after several odour complaints were received in November. But Van Wely explained that a continuous flow of materials keeps heat levels throughout the composting process at optimal levels. Temperatures are starting to drop as the biological activity in the existing compost material slows down.

Some yard waste material is being added in an effort to maintain heat, he said, but the temperature of the material inside the facility needs to be much higher or organic activity will chill to a halt. If there is a sudden drop in temperatures outside concurrent with the drop in temperatures inside, the result could be a freezing of the plant’s filters.

Such an outcome would render the plant inoperable, and processes would have to essentially start from scratch, likely at a prohibitive cost.

Van Wely said the plant is at “a critical stage.” Current mitigation measures to maintain the heat could be stretched out for another week, but anything beyond that could be very risky.

Members of the public liaison committee agreed that taking in moderate amounts of source separated organics to maintain heat levels was a reasonable step to take.

After hammering out the many details of a draft action plan aimed at getting the plant back into active composting, Janet Laird, Guelph’s director of planning, building, engineering and environment, indicated that officials will be working through the holiday period to address all of the questions and concerns of the public liaison committee and ministry.

Amendments to the draft action plan will be made throughout the week in response to suggestions from Monday night’s meeting, and a date of Jan. 3 was set for receiving final questions on the action plan. Van Wely indicated leaving things until mid-January might be too late.

Maple Reinders and its partners have carried out extensive inspections and enhancements of the plant’s systems. While the source of the odour emissions has not been definitively pinpointed, both the company and the ministry believe that faulty, inaccurate ammonia sensors, and uneven air distribution within the facility, are to blame.

Bill Bardwick, director of the west central region of the Ministry of the Environment, was confident those were the two key issues behind the odour problem.

Dusko Grambozov, project manager for Maple Reinders, said there is no way of knowing how the plant will operate until it is fully operational. He said about 95 per cent of the modifications the company wanted to do in the startup phase have been done, and efforts are being made to find reliable ammonia sensors on the global market.

Guelph Speaks - December 10, 2011
by Gerry Barker

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.

Gerry Barker
Guelph Speaks

Guelph Mercury - December 9, 2011

It is looking more and more likely that the citizens of Guelph would have been better served if the city council and staff had simply composted $33 million (and counting) of our tax dollars and not paid for a new wet plant with it. The only people who have benefited from the debacle are the owners of Maple Reinders, and now the consultants who seem to have been hired to confirm that the plant needs a fix.

John T. M. Anderson, Guelph

Vik Kirsch, Mercury staff - December 2, 2011

GUELPH — Odours continue to plague startup of the city’s new municipal composting facility on Dunlop Drive.

The city reported nine odor complaints earlier this month from residents near the east side facility.

On Wednesday, a 10th emerged.

Facility watchdog Ken Spira, who lives in that area, said late Wednesday afternoon he became aware a neighbour on Glenholm Drive detected a stench thought to be emanating from the plant. The facility stopped taking new loads of municipal compost on Nov. 25 after a Ministry of Environment investigation into the first nine complaints – all filed in relation to two days in November. However, processing of material at the plant before Nov. 25 continues.

Spira said Ministry of the Environment officials, as well as officials from Maple Reinders, the compost facility’s designer-builder, arrived at the neighbourhood where the smell was noted shortly after the complaint was made Wedesnday. He said he went there too.

“I did smell the odour,” said Spira, who is president of the Guelph Waste Management Coalition.

He said he wants a speedy remedy to the problem and is stumped at how a composting system billed as a proven technology that “was not going to produce any odours “has done that within weeks of starting up.

City senior communications and issues management co-ordinator Stacey Hare said the municipality is looking into the latest incident and is expected to provide the ministry with its findings by Monday.

Meanwhile, Ward 2 Coun. Ian Findlay on his blog has posted a Nov. 30 letter from city planning and building, engineering and environment executive director Janet Laird to Maple Reinders, which is currently studying its composting system while the city diverts compost to landfill.

The letter states “community confidence in this facility has been shaken.” It reminds Maple Reinders “the City rebuilt this facility specifically to ensure that any odours are not of an intensity or frequency that result in unacceptable impacts on our residents.”

In it, Laird requested the firm “undertake a full and complete review of the air containment system and the odour management system, including but not limited to calibration and confirmation of all monitoring sensors and operating control sensors.”

It directed Maple Reinders to prepare a draft plan for addressing the odour problems for review early next week by the city, ministry and Dillon Consulting Ltd. Dillon Consulting was hired by the City this week to “peer review” Maple Reinders’ work on this file at an estimated cost to the municipality of $16,000, Hare reported.

Hare noted in an email once it’s clear what actions are needed to counter odours “we will be in a better position to provide a more detailed timeline” related to next steps at the plant.

It was unclear Friday whether the ministry would ultimately refer citizen complaints to its investigation and enforcement branch and what that would mean for the city.

In an email Friday, senior spokesperson Jennifer Hall stated her ministry has directed City Hall to create an odour action plan. “The City is complying with our requirements,” she stressed, adding dialogue between the two continues.

Spira said he’s asked to receive a copy of action plan.

He said the problem is intermittent, with the stench appearing most apparent “during strong gusts” of wind sweeping over the facility.

“My opinion? It doesn’t work. Compost stinks. You cannot eliminate odours from compost,” Spira said.

The city, however, has asserted repeatedly the plant’s problems are start-up glitches and this will ultimately be an odour-free operation.