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Durham Region staff peg anaerobic digestion as preferred choice for waste management

Durham Region staff have said that an anaerobe digestion would be the best path forward for dealing with Durham’s organic waste in the years ahead. estimated It’s estimate the region may have to spend between $160 million to $200 million in capital costs on an AD facility. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Regional staff will be recommending anaerobic digestion to address Durham’s future organics waste management, but many details remain undetermined.

At a special meeting held on May 23, staff updated council on the region’s Organics Management Strategy which is currently in development.

Councillors also had the opportunity to direct questions to staff.

The strategy is spurred 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.

With the provincial election one week away, the question was raised whether a new government would slam the brakes on plans.

Mirka Januszkiewicz, the region’s director of waste management, does not see this happening.

“Everything we have in front of us indicates the province will initiate a full ban on organics,” Januszkiewicz told council.

At the meeting, Craig Bartlett, manager of waste operations, said anaerobic digestion is staff’s preferred technology for a future organics waste facility, but specific details of the project were still to be determined.

Anaerobic digestion (AD), which was 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.”

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.

Lastly, digestate, material remaining after the AD process, could serve as a liquid fertilizer, a rich soil amendment or compost.

A business case is currently in the works, with an update, including potential costs, expected at next month’s council meeting.

Acting director of finance Mary Simpson estimated the region may have to spend between $160 million to $200 million in capital costs on an AD facility, while operating costs would significantly increase as well.

Simpson says her department is “on target” to provide some more concrete numbers to council next month.

“The final business case will require additional information. There is a large [amount] of information that is still unknown,” she says.

Simpson added that council also must consider the risks linked with such a project as if once the organics ban is in place, municipalities will be expected to meet strict standards.

“The business case isn’t just on the costs. There is also the risk. We need to assess if there are ways to mitigate it by transferring it to a business partner,” she says.