Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

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.