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Incinerator enters commercial operation

Works committee shoots down proposal for more stack tests


A motion by Clarington councillor Willie Woo to have another stack test at the Durham York Energy Centre, which is now in commercial operation, failed to pass at the region’s works committee. There are two stack tests scheduled for this year: one by the region in the spring and another by Covanta, the site’s operator, in the fall.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Aside from a short shutdown later this month for maintenance, the Durham York Energy Centre is now in full commercial operation.

This comes after the incinerator’s operators, Covanta, were issued its acceptance certificate late last month following a session of regional council that saw the contract between the region and the operator changed so as to allow a higher amount of ash left over from incineration.

Now that it is in operation, the facility will be processing 140,000 tonnes of garbage per year, with a little under 80 per cent coming from Durham. The remaining 21.4 per cent will be coming from York Region.

Currently, the facility is receiving 500 tonnes of garbage daily from Monday to Friday, and is burning between 300 and 400 tonnes on a 24/7 basis.

The facility is set for a short shutdown later this month for regular maintenance, but will be back online shortly afterward to return to full use, says Mirka Januszkiewicz, the region’s director of waste management.

“This is part of regular maintenance which the operator has to do at the time that we have the least amount of waste generation in the region, and that is in February and March,” Januszkiewicz tells The Oshawa Express.

“After that, the facility is going to be in full operation for probably a month, and in early April, we will have an additional stack test.”

The additional stack test outside of the acceptance-testing period had previously been requested by regional councillors to ensure the facility was still meeting environmental guidelines while in operation and will be conducted by a private company. Covanta is set to conduct another stack test of their own in the fall as part of its contract with the region.

Asked by Councillor Jack Ballinger of Uxbridge during a recent meeting of the region’s works committee what would happen should the facility fail the spring stack test, Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, said “we’ll be having a very difficult conversation with the Ministry of the Environment, as well as the public.”

An additional additional stack test

At the same meeting, Councillor Willie Woo put forward a motion requesting another stack test on top of those two, stemming from a resolution passed by Clarington council earlier this month calling for such.

“Quite frankly, I wonder why in the world would you want to do that? The regional council already committed some time ago to an additional stack test. You’re not going to get any additional information from the additional additional stack test that you won’t get from the stack test in general,” Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, said in response to Woo’s motion.

“I’m reasonably certain that our stack test in the spring will match up with the stack tests that were done by Covanta in the fall. And in my opinion, from a technical perspective, it’s a waste of time and energy and money.”

Woo said that ordering an extra stack test would help show community members that may be uneasy about the facility and its emissions that the incinerator is operating as it should be.

Clarington councillor Joe Neal, who does not sit on the works committee and was sitting as a visiting councillor, said that the public is understandably skeptical about what’s going on at the Durham York Energy Centre.

“In terms of why the public would have a lot of questions, I mean it’s a year behind, so it brings a lot of questions about what’s really going on to put them a year behind. Are they struggling with getting the system right? So yeah, there are a lot of questions in Clarington, so I’ll be perfectly blunt about that,” Neal said.

Regional chair Roger Anderson said any extra tests wouldn’t do as Woo believes they will, and that some people are going to be against the incinerator no matter what.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, what our consultants do or what (the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) does. Some people aren’t going to believe them,” Anderson said.

“I think the fact the council already agreed to one additional stack test over and above what was required, I think Clarington should be very happy with that. And you know what will happen, they’ll come back in six months and say do another one. Well when do you say no?”

Woo’s motion did not pass, and the resolution from Clarington council was instead received for information by the region.