By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Regional councillors received their first look at possible solutions for Durham’s long-term organics management plan, with more in-depth information expected to come over the next month.
At the latest council meeting, staff provided the results of a Request for Information (RFI) put out last year.
Council ordered the RFI last summer in an effort to research for the framework of an organics management strategy.
The move is partially motivated by the Liberal government’s proposal to ban organic food waste from landfills as part of its anticipated Provincial Organics Action Plan.
This stance was reaffirmed in a government news release on April 30.
The RFI is part of a larger business case for the organics management strategy, which is currently in development by consultant GHD Ltd.
In a report to council at the May 2 committee of the whole meeting, commissioner of works Susan Siopis noted 19 responses were received through the RFI.
Responding companies included waste management service providers, technology providers, a construction company and by-product/end product users.
“This level of response is considered very good in comparison to similar processes completed elsewhere in this province,” Siopis wrote in her report.
Of the 19 submissions, eight respondents provided detailed answers to technical and financial questions with others providing various levels of response.
Specific details of these responses were not included in the staff report.
In the past, it’s been noted the region has two options to look at in terms of future organics management.
The first, aerobic digestion, would build on the region’s current process by adding mixed waste and pre-sorting, increasing the current system’s capacity for additional organic wastes.
Ten RFI respondents expressed interest in the mixed waste and pre-sorting process, with six providing detailed responses.
In her report, Siopis notes advancements in this type of technology have been “demonstrated at several facilities”, and would provide the region with the ability to remove organic waste and potentially increase its diversion rate for waste above or at the provincial standard of 70 per cent.
Siopis suggests that a phase-in scenario where the mixed waste and pre-sort facility would be constructed in advance of an organics processing facility could be beneficial.
“Proceeding with such a facility could provide a solution for the region’s waste transfer issues, optimize the capacity at the DYEC and provide a solution for the diversion of multi-residential waste,” Siopis said in her report. “A phased-in option will be considered within the business case analysis with appropriate recommendations made in the June committee of the whole report.”
The second option for the region is, anaerobic digestion (AD), which GHD Ltd. described in a prior report as “a robust system which will be able to sort and process cross-contaminated materials from the single and multi-family residence waste streams.”
Thirteen respondents to the RFI provided information on AD as a potential organics processing technology.
Siopis notes that responses reflect the waste industry’s move towards AD as the preferred solution for a long-term organics management strategy.
It is noted that the AD process would produce biogas.
The potential uses of biogas range from power and heat recovery to being cleaned and upgraded to renewable natural gas.
Some respondents also indicated that compressed natural gas could be produced and used to power vehicles.
Lastly, digestate, material remaining after the AD process, could serve as a liquid fertilizer, a rich soil amendment or compost.
The AD process, if chosen by council, could be provided through a number of methods, including a fully or partially owned-regional facility or a privately owned-facility where Durham would pay a tipping fee for material sorting and processing.
The aerobic process would not produce any renewable by-products.
Respondents to the RFI indicated a willingness to work within the preferred service delivery model of the region, subject to contractual terms and risk.
Siopis noted there was interest from companies in providing a private service delivery contract including infrastructure investment.
Any type of service delivery is anticipated to require guarantees on the level of organic waste provided by the region.
Submissions for the RFI identify a timeframe of between 18 months and four years to have a facility operational.
No respondents provided plans to use the region’s current facilities to meet needs over the next 20 years.
Michael Cant, principle of solid waste for GHD Ltd. told council last year the region’s “existing organics management facility is at capacity” and would not be prepared to deal with the requirements under the province’s proposed ban.
“It does not allow for additional processing, does not allow any increase in the diversion rate and does not extend capacity at the Durham York Energy Centre,” Cant said.
Whatever route the region takes, it is anticipated to come with hefty costs, both operational and capital.
Last July, former commissioner of finance Jim Clapp warned capital costs could range from $170 million to $210 million.
In addition, operating costs could potentially rise $31 million to $33 million from current levels.
However, Clapp warned those figures were “preliminary” and could change over time.
At the May 2 committee of the whole meeting, Siopis told councillors the RFI had “reaffirmed some of the numbers we’ve estimated in the past.”
Moving forward, Siopis noted that more detailed reporting of the RFI results, service delivery analysis, risk assessment and an updated preliminary business case are expected to be delivered to council in June.
It is also anticipated an education session will be held for council, also open to the public, later this month.
Clarington Councillor Joe Neal voiced concern on the tight deadlines for the current council on the issue, notably in receiving information on financial implications.
“I thought we’d be further along in this process. I thought we’d be trying to wrestle with this before we got into the ‘lame duck’ session,” he noted.