Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

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


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 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

Ward 2 Guelph Blog - November 10, 2011

In September 2009, Orgaworld, a private sector waste management company, appealed conditions in the Certificates of Approval issued for their Ottawa composting facility regarding the power of Ministry of Environment (MOE), the conditions under which the MOE could order the composting facility to shut down operations, restrictions which could be placed on feedstock material (e.g. collection of diapers, pet feces etc) and, most importantly, restrictions on the collection of compostable materials in plastic bags.

We have been monitoring and awaiting this decision to be released as our Certificates of Approval currently contain conditions which are very similar to, or the same as, those contained in the C of As for the Orgaworld facility. When staff and our consultants were negotiating with MOE staff concerning the conditions of approval in our Certificates of Approval, we were advised by MOE staff that if the Environmental Review Tribunal decision directed the MOE to amend clauses in Orgaworld’s certificates of approval, that similar amendments would be granted to Guelph.
We were informed yesterday that the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), the appeal body that handles challenges to provincial Certificates of Approval, issued its decision on the Orgaworld Canada Ltd. V. Director, Ministry of Environment case and overturned those conditions of approval.

We are reviewing the ERT decision and will bring a report to the November 28 Council meeting that will inform Council how this decision potentially impacts our Certificates of Approval for our organic waste processing facility, our current waste programs, and the implementation of automated cart collection scheduled to begin Fall 2012. Specifically, over the next two weeks, staff will have discussions with MOE staff regarding their intentions to amend our Certificates of Approval, as they were directed by the Environmental Review Tribunal to amend Orgaworld’s.

Assuming the MOE does, in fact, amend our C of A accordingly, and we do need confirmation of that, then the decision to convert to a cart-based system will rest with City Council, not mandated by the MOE. Staff will bring forward a report to Council that clearly outlines the pros/cons, financial and non-financial, of continuing, or not continuing, with a cart-based collection system.

City Staff


Ken Spira
November 11, 2011 at 10:53 am
The Ministry restriction on no bags is a condition on the C of A due to odours. They have not mandated that the city use carts, just no plastic bags. This facility has just reopened its doors after being charged with odour violations and making life a living hell for us taxpayers that have lived in the area years before the facility was built. If built in the middle of a 300 acre farm between Guelph and Waterloo, this would not be an issue as bags would be allowed. Promises were made to the residents in the area by the city and we fought hard to get a C of A that would protect us from someone moving into our neighborhood, stinking up the area, devaluating our properties and ruining our lives. The city agreed to these conditions in order to rebuild the plant. Now that it is built, they want to change the requirements that they agreed to in order to protect us????……..THANKS GUELPH!

November 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm
Ken – I, as well as many others I am sure, feel for you guys by the facility. This is the wrong, all around, so called solution to our garbage woes. Not only are our so called leaders strapping Guelph with a huge bill, we can ill afford at this time ($32Mil), but they have not been forthwith about all the information required for the bill payers. We cannot afford the extra $15mil for trucks and bins and all the challenges the bins will create in the city and our politicians are looking for an out that makes them look good. This one, from the inception stage, is and continues to be loaded, with challenges and the end result will be how much harm does it bring to the residents of Guelph and surrounding area.
Should have never happened, period, and now someone is going to pay.

November 12, 2011 at 5:26 am
I just don’t get this political city anymore….


Guelph Mercury - Sep 23 2011

Guelph’s new organic treatment system stipulates that the use of plastic bags will no longer be permitted to contain and store organic waste prior to collection by the city.

Guelph residents will now have to use unlined organic collection containers and bins. The undesired outcome will be putting up with unhygienic, smelly, maggot- and ant-infested garbage collection containers.

The city advises that people are required to adopt this policy because the Ministry of the Environment prohibits the collection of waste in plastic bags. Actually, the ministry does not prohibit the collection of organic waste in plastic bags, but rather prohibits the composting of organic waste when contained in plastic as the bags interfere with the supply of oxygen to the composting process, resulting in the production of bad odours.

The city also advises that other cities such as Toronto have the same waste organic system as Guelph. However, it is my understanding that Toronto still allows organic waste to be collected in plastic bags. It appears Toronto has resolved the conflict between collection of organics in plastic bags and composting.

Guelph merely needs to modify its organic treatment plant so that plastic bags are removed from the organic waste stream prior to delivery to composting. Apparently, according to a designer of such plants, this is a straightforward design issue and is commonly used.

The ministry clearly treats bad odours as an environmental hazard, as it will not permit the smelly process of composting organic waste in plastic bags. Guelph, as an acknowledged leader in environmental issues, should be equally concerned with bad odours in households and modify its organic treatment plant as described above, so that plastic bags can continue to be used by households to control and store organic wastes.

Guelph bills itself as a wonderful place to live. Guelph will lose some of its lustre as a wonderful place to live when residents find that their quality of life is affected by the foul odours associated with the use of unlined organic waste storage containers and bins.

Edward Kurys


Guelph Mercury - Nov. 23/10
It is with growing concern that I watch, in complete and utter disbelief, as the mayor of Guelph and some misguided councilors play what I consider to be a dangerous game with the prime drinking water resource for over 100,000 people.

It is as if the lessons learned from the Walkerton disaster have missed them entirely!

It was also in complete disbelief, that I listened to the mayor the morning she was re-elected stating: “It is inevitable that taxes will increase.” It is unacceptable that she treat the taxpayers of Guelph as cash cows to fund the re-construction of the composting plant that nobody wants. We will pay more per tonne for handling this waste when it opens than we are paying now, and with the new wet plant we will also be subsidizing Waterloo’s cost of organic waste disposal.

The overburden, the amount of material lying over the bedrock that is protecting our aquifer, at the Dunlop Drive site is too thin to offer great protection against the risk of groundwater contamination. Nevertheless, the mayor has proceeded to advocate for another waste processing plant at the site. I suspect that if an environmental assessment was ever conducted at this site it would fail miserably.

Unbelievably, the province does not require the city to conduct such an environmental assessment, but common sense should have prevailed here and city hall should have volunteered for one.

I only wish that Andy Van Hellemond had run for mayor. There is no question in my mind that Karen Farbridge would have been served a game misconduct, and more importantly, be banned from the league permanently!

Murray Hall,


Guelph Mercury - Letter to the Editor - July 2/10

I have two concerns about the pending change to bins for the collection of household compost in the city: smell and clean-up.

During a recent talk with a city councillor I explained that with the collection of compost, including such things as meat products and grease, residue will adhere to the sides of the bin and after a week will start to smell — especially in the hot summer — and attract flies and other pests. I would think that a person with a weak stomach might find it difficult to deposit compost in the bin.

I find that after a day or two I have to remove the “green bag” from the kitchen because of the smell of it.

The city environment manager’s suggestion to line the bin with paper would not be a solution because the wet compost would leak through the paper and adhere to the sides of the bin. Also, if I understand her statement correctly, she said compost will not smell as bad if it is exposed to the air. I can’t figure that one out. We may end up with a city-wide smell similar to the now defunct compost plant.

My second concern is with the cleaning of the city bin. The city councillor suggested washing it out in the driveway. Do we want residual meat products and grease washed into the storm drains, which end up in the river. Also, the kitchen container, with no green bag, would have to be washed in the sink resulting in unnecessary residual meat products and grease flowing to the pollution control plant.

Also, when I talk to people from out of town, they are amazed and confused at the regulations regarding the disposal of our garbage.

I feel that city residents have done more than their share in terms of cost and compliance with recycling our garbage without being subjected to the additional smell and cleanup of compost bins.

I’m sure that council, in its wisdom, will come up with a better solution.

Bernie Law


City proceeding without approvals……..again?

Letter to the Editor April 19, 2010

The City of Guelph has given Maple Reinders the green light to start the compost plant despite not receiving approval from the Ministry of Environment to operate it. City staff has gone down this road before with the construction of an outdoor leaf composting pad. With their pockets full of taxpayer’s money, City staff proceeded with the construction of an outdoor composting pad while waiting for approval from the MOE . In the long run, approval was not granted to compost on the pad, however it was already built with our hard earned cash. Today, the outdoor pad is used to park a few vehicles on and is blamed in the City’s annual report as being the source of excessive sodium levels being found in the monitoring wells. Despite heavy opposition by the Guelph Waste Management Coalition who have requested investigations from Ministry’s of Natural Resources, Transportation, Health, Municipal Affairs and Environment into the sites impact on the residents and local environment, the City with their pockets still full of our hard earned cash plow forward. Perhaps when the facility is constructed and the approvals are not granted to use it to compost, we could stock it with books to use as a new library or convert it into a recreational facility, after all there is plenty of parking on the leaf composting pad.

Laura Marini