Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

December 2, 2011 - By Jessica Lovell
Guelph Tribune

The city’s organic waste processing facility will remain closed to new waste for at least a few weeks while the plant’s odour management system is thoroughly reviewed.

“We want to make sure that if there are any issues, they are dealt with before we reopen the facility,” said the city’s executive director of planning and environmental services, Janet Laird. The facility stopped accepting new loads of green garbage last Friday after nine complaints about foul smells came in on three separate days in November.

While the Ministry of the Environment has stated that the odour is coming from the new plant, the city does not yet seem ready to own up to it.“The results of the initial review indicated that our facility may be the source of the odour,” said Laird, but a specific source within the plant has not yet been confirmed, she said.

Still, the complaints were not a complete surprise in these early days of the plant’s operation.

“Hiccups or bumps in the road are thoroughly expected,” said Laird.

The facility, which began operating on Sept. 27, is still an active construction site and is technically still in the design and build phase, she said.

Though the facility was touted for its design features meant to prevent the escape of odours, it shouldn’t have been expected to be completely odour-free, said Laird.

“It’s probably unrealistic to expect that any organic waste composting facility would be absolutely odour-free,” she said.

It is designed for “excellent odour control,” and the city expects that there won’t be an adverse impact on the community, she said.

But the plant still hasn’t reached the phase where it has been confirmed to be operating as intended. For this reason, she said, it is the responsibility of its designer, Maple Reinders, to correct any issues.

The company is undertaking a review of the facility’s odour management system – a process that is expected to take several weeks, Laird said.

The city will also be paying a third part to complete a peer review in order to ensure that all the bases have been touched, she said.

She couldn’t say exactly what the city’s costs would be for that review.

As far as costs to send the organic waste to landfill, “there won’t be any costs incurred by the city,” said Laird.

Currently, Guelph’s green bags are being sent to landfill in St. Thomas at a cost of $61 per tonne. The cost of organic processing in Guelph is $79 per tonne, she said.

Guelph’s organics plant was only operating at about two-thirds capacity when the complaints started coming in, and it had been receiving curbside waste from Guelph and Waterloo Region.

It is still operating with the waste that had come through the doors before Nov. 25, but no new waste is coming in. What happens to Waterloo’s waste is between Waterloo and AIM Environmental, the Maple Reinders subsidiary which has holds the contract with Waterloo, said Laird.

Meanwhile, there have been no new complaints about odours around the facility since Nov. 23, she said.

CTV Southwestern Ontario
Thu. Dec. 1 2011 5:57 PM ET

There is a stink being raised in Guelph over the new organic waste facility.
The city has received 10 odour complaints in the last 10 days, and while the facility continues to operate, new waste is being diverted to a landfill.
Residents near the facility have been through this before. They say the old organic waste facility created such an odour, they couldn’t be outside. Now they’re worried this new facility is the same.
“It’s been wafting in some pretty raunchy odours” says Ken Spira, president of the Guelph Waste Management Coalition.
Spira says the coalition was told the new facility had the technology to prevent odours.
“There was a seven-year-old boy playing road hockey with his dad and he said to his dad ‘I can’t stand this smell anymore, I’m going in.’”
Janet Laird, at the City of Guelph, says the organic waste facility is still in the commissioning phase. It opened at the end of September.
“We absolutely expect that we’re going to bump into some issues and concerns that need to be resolved. That’s why we have start-up periods.”
The city has asked Maple Reinder Construction, the company responsible for the facility, to create an action plan to address the complaints.
“We’re doing a throughout review of air containment and odour control systems…and any problems identified, we’re resolving as we find them” says Peter Muller with Maple Reinder.
The city will be bringing in a consultant once the action is finished, to verify its strategy and ensure future odour incidents are dealt with properly.
Spira says they’ll wait in order to breathe deep with a sigh of relief.
“I can probably put up with it more than anybody. But the kids, it’s just sad to see them not being able to play outside.”
The facility will resume service when the action plan is endorsed by the city and the Ministry of the Environment.

Why must it be so hard? - by Jessica Lovell - Guelph Tribune - December, 01, 2011

What’s really going on at the new organic waste processing facility? That’s what I wanted to know. And I’m certain I wasn’t the only one looking for answers.

But the struggle to get those answers from the city has been a discouraging one.

I tried not to take it personally. After all, the city’s communications staff doesn’t work for me

But here’s how it played out:

After multiple emails and phone calls to various city folks, on Monday evening I finally heard from the city’s executive director of planning, engineering and environmental services, Janet Laird. It was just as I was going out the door for the night. Well past deadline, and well past the 3 p.m. time that I was told I would hear from her.

Normally, in that situation, I would unbutton my coat and pull out my notebook, but I have a sick kitty at home and I was anxious to tend to it.

I also thought it would be better to get the latest from Laird the following day, so we made plans to speak then – or so I thought.

After a number of emails and phone calls Tuesday, I finally arranged to speak with Laird at the end of the day. But when the time came, I didn’t hear from her. I was told she was still in a meeting, but would email answers to my questions by 9 a.m. Wednesday. When I arrived at the office at 9 a.m., there was no email from Laird to greet me. Instead, my phone was flashing with a message from the city’s communications department telling me that instead of the agreed-upon email, the city would be issuing a news release, which I could expect by 11 a.m.

As I write this, it’s 2:58 p.m. and counting, and still no news release.

As a reporter, I find this situation frustrating. But what bothers me more is the city’s seeming failure to provide answers to the concerns of its citizens.

It was complaints about odours from residents in the area of the organics plant that caused the city to stop accepting waste on Nov. 25. And it was through the Ward 2 blog, not the city’s communications team, that we first learned of the plant’s closure to new waste.

The complaints suggest members of the public would be looking for answers.

I expect they will be asking the same questions I’m asking.

It is understandable that city staff would be more focused on investigating and correcting issues at the waste facility than they would be on talking to the media, but I suggest that, in this case, they’ve made communications too low a priority.

The news release issued late Monday afternoon seemed outdated, leading with a statement that conflicted with comments provided by a Ministry of the

Environment official earlier in the day. And we’re still waiting on an updated release.

Luckily, Laird finally called. However, it should never be this much trouble.

Mercury staff - December 1, 2011

GUELPH — The City of Guelph is taking steps to ensure that foul odours don’t escape the new organic waste facility in the future.

The city and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment received nine odour complaints this month from various residents living southeast of the facility, which was heralded as odour-free when it was officially opened on Sept. 27. The odours were reported following two separate odour events, according to the city.

City officials believe the odour problem was part of the facility’s startup phase and will be remedied.

The city sent out a news release early Wednesday evening stating city personnel are working with the facility’s designer, Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. of Mississauga, “to take every practical step to minimize odours from the facility.”

If improvements to the facility’s systems are required, they will be implemented.

Immediate measures include requiring Maple Reinders to conduct a detailed review of the facility’s air containment and odour management systems in order to identify any improvement that may be needed.

The nearly $33 million facility features leading edge air-filtration, monitoring and processing systems. It replaced a previous facility that closed due to significant odour emission problems.

A consultant hired by the city, Dillon Consulting Limited, will review the Maple Reinders’ action plan, and both the Environment Ministry and a citizen’s advisory group will review the plan. The facility will be subject to ongoing monitoring for odours.

The action plan and its results will be shared with nearby residents and the community, the news release states.

“While we have confidence in the advanced modern technology used at the city’s organic waste facility, the facility is in a startup phase, during which time issues are expected to be encountered and resolved,” Janet Laird, the city’s executive director of planning and building, engineering and environment, said in the release.

“We apologize to residents for the recent unpleasant odours and are committed to working with Maple Reinders and other partners, in consultation with the (Environment) Ministry, to find and address the source of odours.”

The city stopped taking in organic waste last Friday in order for Maple Reinders to conduct a detailed review of the facility’s air containment and odour management systems.

“The facility will not resume receiving organic waste until the city, in consultation with the Ministry and the citizen’s advisory group, is satisfied any issues found have been resolved,” Laird said.

In the interim, the city’s organic waste will be shipped to a landfill site in St. Thomas for disposal.

Odours shut down wet plant

November 30th, 2011

By Jessica Lovell - Guelph Tribune - Tuesday, November, 29, 2011

The provincial Ministry of the Environment says the foul odours that have been detected by residents around the city’s organic waste facility are indeed coming from the new facility.

“The ministry confirmed the facility is the source of the odours and has required the city to develop an action plan to address the odours,” said Ministry of the Environment district manager Jane Glassco.

The ministry is to meet with representatives from the City of Guelph today (Tuesday) to get the details of the city’s action plan, Glassco said Monday.

“They have to tell us what they’re doing,” she said, explaining the ministry would not be able to share more details until after the meeting.

Multiple attempts to reach city representatives went unanswered before the Trib’s press time Monday afternoon.

A city hall staff report posted on the Ward 2 blog said the city’s organic waste processing facility stopped accepting waste on Nov. 25, after receiving nine complaints about odours from nearby residents between Nov. 11 and 23.

“After hearing reports of odours in the area, the city stopped receiving organic waste until a review of the facility’s odour management system is done,” the report said.

While the facility will continue to operate, processing the green garbage already at the plant, the city will send new waste to a landfill in St. Thomas.

The brand new facility, which began operations on Sept. 27, will start accepting waste again “when the review is complete and any identified issues are addressed,” the report said.

The $32-million facility replaced Guelph’s former composting plant, which closed in 2006 because of structural problems.

The old facility was plagued by repeated complaints of bad smells, but the new facility was specially designed with environmental controls meant to eliminate such complaints.

It was built by Maple Reinders Constuctors Ltd., and a partner firm called Biorem will be running it for at least the next five years under contract to the city.

Maple Reinders and Biorem have also teamed up in other cities to build and operate composting plants designed to prevent the escape of odours.

“While the advanced, modern technology used at the facility is tried and true, the facility itself is new and is still being commissioned,” the report said.

“The city is committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure it operates optimally,” it said.

Compost stink under investigation

November 29th, 2011

Rob O’Flanagan, Mercury staff - Mon Nov 28 20110

GUELPH — The stench that apparently emanated from the new compost facility in eastside Guelph was not a minor one, nor was it fleeting.

The nearly $33 million Organic Waste Processing Facility built by Maple Reinders Group Ltd. was hailed as an odour-free facility, but it appears that claim has not panned out in its first few weeks of operation. It officially opened on Sept. 27.

A top city official and at least one city councillor believe it is a temporary glitch related to the plant’s startup phase. The issue is currently being investigated by a third party consulting engineer.

Janet Laird, Guelph’s director of planning, building, engineering and environment, is hopeful the issue can be resolved within two weeks. The Environment Ministry believes it traced the odour to the new plant, but the city has yet to find a cause.

“We did an initial review last week and we weren’t able to determine the cause of the odours,” Laird said. “We are not finished yet. Our investigation is still ongoing. We’re doing a thorough review of the odour management system, and if we do identify any issues we will resolve them, and then we will resume accepting waste again.”

Certain components of the facility’s air filtration system are manufactured by Guelph-area’s Biorem, and the plant is run by Maple Reinder affiliate Aim Environmental Group.

Ward 3 councillor Ian Findlay revealed on his blog over the weekend that nine formal smell complaints were received in the month of November. Complaints were first received on Nov. 11, and again on Nov. 20, and Nov. 23.

The smell issue forced the discontinuation of organic waste deliveries to the new plant. The city is now rerouting green bag organic waste back to a landfill site in St. Thomas, the same site that takes Guelph’s clear bag waste, and, until recently, disposed of our organic waste for several years.

Laird said sending the green bags to St. Thomas is less expensive than sending them to the new compost facility — $61 per tonne for the landfill, compared to $79 per tonne to compost.

“It’s very disappointing,” Findlay said, referring to the fact the city is temporarily back to shipping its organic waste elsewhere.

“The province is encouraging municipalities to stop the landfilling of our garbage, and we are doing our best in our community to do that,” he said. “This is just a minor hiccup, I’m hoping, and that we will very shortly see the return of the full, odour-free operation of this facility and the acceptance of organic waste.”

But Susan Antler, executive director of the Compost Council of Canada, said it is unreasonable to expect any composting operation to be odour-free, even a facility reputed to be state-of-the-art.

Composting involves organic residuals that give off odours. Managing those odours, and managing public expectations, is the key to a successful composting operation, she said.

Proper recipes, carefully managed processes, and having safeguards in place like a biofiltration system to capture odours, are all important. But promising a completely odour-free operation is unrealistic, she suggested.

Ken Spira, the president of the community action group Guelph Waste Management Coalition, said it is clear the stink was coming from the new plant. That was confirmed on Friday by Ministry of the Environment district supervisor Greta Najcler.

On Monday, Najcler said in an email that ministry staff carefully followed the odour from the location of the complaint and “quickly identified that the odour being detected at nearby residential homes was the same odour emanating from the Guelph Organics processing facility.”

As part of its remediation action, the city has engaged the services of a consulting engineer to review the odour management system and to resolve the odour issue, she confirmed.

“We haven’t been able to determine specifically the source of the odours,” Laird reiterated, adding that the city is engaged in a different kind of investigation than the ministry, one involving a careful check of the plant’s systems to determine the source of the odours.

“We’re working very closely with the ministry to investigate the odours and where they are coming from, and if they are coming from the city’s facility we will work with the ministry to resolve any issues that we come across,” Laird added.

Spira lives in the path of the odour on Glenholm Drive. He said the recent smells were the same, though not as strong, as those that emanated from the former compost facility. That facility was fined $40,000 by the Environment Ministry, and eventually shut down.

Spira said he and other members of his group accompanied a ministry inspector to the plant, where “sniffer ports” in the stack were opened. The smell coming from the bio-filters and going into the stack was the same that wafted in the air over Glenholm Drive, he said.

The smells from the previous and current facility drifted into the neighbourhood when winds were from the northwest, he said.

“It is a pungent, decaying, dead body smell, like a rat has died in the wall of your house,” he said.

The smell is so offensive, he added, that it prohibits residents from conducting outdoor activities like barbecues or sitting around swimming pools. No one should have to live with persistent rank odours in their midst, he added.

Spira said he canvassed the neighbourhood over the weekend and found that about five households smelled the odour a number of times, but did not report it.

Findlay said the city is confident the bugs will be worked out.

“We do appreciate that this is a new facility and we are in the process of commissioning the facility, and there are still some wrinkles to iron out of it,” Findlay said. “Until we get up to full operation we would anticipate that there would be some blips along the way.”

He said it is unfortunate that the neighbourhood is experiencing foul odours.

“I personally find that completely unacceptable, and I do empathize with them,” he added. “And I just ask for their patience until we get this sorted out.”

Laird echoed Findlay’s views that some bugs are to be expected in the early startup phase of the plant’s operation.

“It’s only been operational since Sept. 27, so commissioning normally takes several months, and it’s a time period during which you encounter startup problems and resolve them,” Laird said.

Findlay said a number of experts are working on the issue.

“From the number of emails I received this weekend, I can assure you all hands were on deck trying to address this problem,” Findlay said. “This is a very high profile, state-of-the-art facility, and to have this kind of problem so early is very disappointing. But I can assure you that everyone is doing all that they can to address the problems.”

Guelph Mercury - editorial Mon Nov 28 20110

The City of Guelph didn’t do enough soon enough to communicate to the community what was happening at its new organics waste treatment plant last week.

Without making a public announcement the municipality:

ceased the plant’s operations Friday;

received word that the Ministry of the Environment had determined or believed the plant was the source of multiple, recent odour complaints by area residents and that the municipality had been issued an immediate order to act on the problem;

made arrangements — effective Friday — to indefinitely ship the organics waste it collected on to an unknown, third-party, at an undisclosed cost;

initiated an investigation into whatever seemed to be the cause of the odours and had representatives of the firm that built the $32 million plant on site engaged in that task.

This is an incredibly high-priority item for this municipality, this council and this community.

This plant only opened weeks ago. At the time of the receipt of its first loads of wet waste, the municipality went to lengths to inform the community about this development as a positive story for the community — even going so far as to stage a press conference at the plant to deliver this message.

Shame on the municipality for doing so much less in terms of communication when these concerns arose and these actions were taken last week regarding the plant.

It was important to brief the community about progress related to the development of this facility during its construction and upon the plant becoming operational. The municipality took those steps. But how could it seemingly take a pass on promptly advising the community of these more recent developments when they surfaced?

The city has repeatedly undertaken publicly to operate this plant in a more transparent manner than it did with the previous one and to do a better job working with area residents on this development.

These promises were not well honoured in this case. In fact, whatever trust and goodwill the city had developed in the community related to the development of this new facility has suffered because of this episode.

Some members of council have helped communicate some details about this situation. But the official initial communications effort on this matter has been sorely lacking.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment says unpleasant odours detected on Guelph’s east side are coming from the city’s new organic waste processing plant.

Vik Kirsch, Mercury staff Sat Nov 26 2011

GUELPH — Guelph’s new eastside organics composting plant is the cause of odours that are bringing complaints from residents in the neighbourhood, the provincial Ministry of the Environment said Friday.

The ministry demanded that the city produce an action plan by the end of the day to address the pungent smells at the plant, which began operating two months ago.

“I can’t believe they’ve built the facility with such faults,” outspoken critic Ken Spira said late Friday afternoon.

Environment Ministry district supervisor Greta Najcler asserted in an email to the Mercury that the ministry will review the municipal plan and “work closely with the city to make sure it takes the action needed to resolve the odours.”

City officials offered assurances last year that the new facility would be odour-free. Senior city official Janet Laird said Friday she believes that to ultimately be the case.

“It’s still very much in the commissioning phase,” said Laird, the city’s planning, building, engineering and environment executive director.

The composting plant was designed and built by Maple Reinders Group Ltd.

“We are confident this facility is able to operate odour-free,” Reinders contract and risk manager Peter Muller said Friday.

He said the Mississauga firm has built four similar facilities in Canada to date. “There’s been the odd odour complaint, which has not been substantiated,” Muller said.

In Guelph, a team is poring over the composting facility to investigate odour complaints, work that will take a week or so.

Though the ministry believes the plant is the source of the odour, “we’re undertaking an investigation,” Laird said, describing the odour-management system at the plant as “tried and true.”

Meanwhile, Laird said the organic waste stream was shut down Friday. “For the time being, it’s going to go to landfill,” she reported.

In recent weeks, homeowners in the area of Stone and Watson roads began noticing unpleasant, garbage-like smells around their homes.

City officials initially suggesting the stench might be coming from industries in the area. But residents were convinced the source was the new organics processing plant on Dunlop Drive, which opened in late September at the nearby Waste Resource Innovation Centre.

The city closed a former compost plant at that location in 2006. Charged by the Environment Ministry for odours, the city paid a $40,000 fine in that episode.

The city previously trumpeted the plant’s innovative design incorporating odour-mitigating features. It uses aerobic, in-vessel composting to generate fewer emissions.

Spira, president of the activist Guelph Waste Management Coalition, said he remains worried for the longer-term future of the organics facility, adding at startup it was operating at only a portion of capacity and already appears to be causing problems.

“They should have never built this facility in the first place.” It’s second version, he said, should have been constructed further from residents as a precaution.

 GUELPH — The Ministry of the Environment has confirmed that the City of Guelph’s new organics composting plant is the cause of odours spurring complaints from residents living in the vicinity of the east-side plant.The ministry has demanded that the city immediately produced an action plan to address the odours.The city is to submit this plan today.In an email statement issued to the Mercury, Greta Najcler, the district supervisor for the ministry, also asserted that the ministry will review the plan and “work closely with the City to make sure it takes the action needed to resolve the odours.”City officials have indicated a statement on this subject is to be made soon.Homeowners in the area of Stone and Watson roads have been noticing pungent, garbage-like smells around their homes in recent weeks.Before the ministry issued its report, city officials had reportedly suggested the smells might be coming from industries in the area. But residents were convinced they are coming from the new organics processing plant which opened in late September at the nearby Waste Resource Innovation Centre.The city was charged by the Environment Ministry for odours emanating from a former compost plant at the site and paid a $40,000 fine.Guelph Mercury

Scott Tracey, Mercury staff Fri Nov 25 2011

GUELPH — Residents of an east-end neighbourhood are having a smelly déjà-vu.

Homeowners in the area of Stone and Watson roads have been noticing pungent, garbage-like smells around their homes in recent weeks.

While city officials have reportedly suggested the smells might be coming from industries in the area, residents are convinced they are coming from the new organics processing plant which opened in late September at the nearby Waste Resource Innovation Centre.

“Prior to the previous (organics) facility being built we never smelled anything from Cargill or anywhere else and when the old one closed, the odours stopped almost immediately,” said Ken Spira, a nearby resident and president of the Guelph Waste Management Coalition. “We know where this is coming from.”

Spira said he first heard of a neighbour smelling something on Nov. 11, but he only smelled it himself last Sunday.

“If the wind is blowing from the northwest toward our properties, you can really smell it,” said Spira, who formed his coalition to battle the former organics plant, which closed in 2006 because of odours and corrosion in the building. “It’s kind of like a sweet stench.”

The city was charged by the provincial Environment Ministry for odours emanating from the former plant and paid a $40,000 fine.

Spira said his neighbour’s son abandoned a game of road hockey Sunday afternoon because it smelled so bad outside their house.

“That’s exactly what my kids were saying a few years ago,” he said. “It’s just about enough to make you cry.”

Spira’s neighbour, Donna Sunter, said she had company recently “and they said, ‘What’s that awful smell?’ I went outside and it was just like a few years ago.”

Sunter said the odour comes and goes with the wind.

“You can be standing in one place and not smell it and then the wind will change and it will just about knock you over,” she said.

Ward 1 Coun. Jim Furfaro said he has heard odour complaints “on more than one occasion” from residents in the area.

Furfaro said representatives of the Environment Ministry and city met with residents at the site recently “and from what I’ve been told it was noticeable and detectable to the residents and others present.

“There seems to be something there and I think what they’re trying to do is determine whether it’s coming from the processing of garbage,” Furfaro said. “To date there has been no official confirmation it is coming from that facility.”

City staff did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said she had not been authorized by her supervisor to comment on the matter yet.

Furfaro said it will be important to figure out what’s going on “and what we need to do to rectify it.

“We’ve spent $30 million on that plant and we were assured there would be no odour concerns,” the councillor said. “Now we’ve been operating seven weeks and it appears there is an odour, so we need to address it.”