Guelph Waste Management Coalition Inc

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.

stracey@guelphmercury.com