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Staff seeking more info on organics waste plan

Several councillors question perceived lack of forward movement

Several regional councillors are concerned the ongoing efforts to enhance Durham’s organic waste management may not be moving fast enough.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Regional staff will likely need to go back to the well to gather more information to prepare for Durham’s future management of organic waste.

Currently, the region is in the midst of the developing an organics waste management strategy in response to provincial plans, announced by the then-governing Liberal Party last year, to ban organic waste from landfills by 2022 It is unknown whether the newly-elected Progressive Conservative Party will move ahead in a similar direction.

As reported earlier by The Oshawa Express, Durham’s director of waste management Mirka Janiuszkewciz stated she does not see the change in government altering those plans.

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

Regional staff has recommended anaerobic digestion (AD) as the preferred long-term solution.

A request for information (RFI) was undertaken by the region late-last year, with 19 companies providing varying level of responses.

A June 6 report recommended that staff begin to explore options to bring AD to Durham through “confidential non-binding and procedurally fair discussions with interested parties,” including the 19 RFI respondents.

This request did not sit well with Clarington Councillor Joe Neal, as he feels the region is “treading water” on the issue.

“We are not really moving forward towards a decision,” Neal commented. “Is it not time to get more specific about what it would look like?”

“We keep coming back with the same reports saying we’re going to get more information. This is the third time we’ve authorized an RFI, let’s get on with it.”

However, regional commissioner of works Susan Siopis says her staff was of the understanding the final decision would be hands of the next regional council.

“[The report] was very carefully crafted. The point of the recommendations was to move us forward over the next few months to come back with more concrete information and nail down some of the factors,” Siopis said.

In an e-mail, Siopis told The Oshawa Express it would be best for the 2018-2022 council to make the final decision.

“Direction regarding organics management is an important decision given the potential long-term impacts on our diversion rates, the environment, costs (no matter what technology is chosen)  and the Region’s overall waste management strategy,” Siopis said. “Given the timeframes around the upcoming municipal election and budget deliberations it is prudent to use the next few months to further examine both the technologies and various project delivery models in order to bring recommendations to the new council on strategies to move forward with organics management.”

Estimated capital costs for an organics waste management facility could range anywhere from $120 million to $200 million.

Yearly operating costs and debenture financing costs combined are expected to be more than $40 million annually.

Ajax Councillor Shaun Collier voiced his disappointment with the lack of complete financial figures.

“This to me is not a business plan, and we’ve been waiting on a business plan the whole way through,” Collier said. “I don’t think we’ve been given enough answers.”

Acting finance commissioner Mary Simpson agreed that what councillors were looking at was not a business plan.

“It’s based on a large number of assumptions. There’s a great deal of information that is outstanding,” Simpson stated.

Ajax Councillor Colleen Jordan says the region will have waste regardless of what party is at the helm at Queen’s Park.

“My frustration is we keep getting information back and get more information back, and we don’t do anything,” Jordan said. “You are going to have waste to deal with and that’s not going to change with the provincial government.”

Jordan pointed out that both Toronto and Peel Region are miles ahead of Durham in planning.

“Forward-looking people are going the way. We keep dragging our feet.”

Neal expressed concern that consideration will be given to expanding capacity at the Durham York Energy Centre in January 2019.

He implored that a decision should be made sooner than later.

“Let’s fish or cut bait on this. Everything we’ve heard in the last six months is this is necessary.”

At the latest regional council meeting, Neal put forth a motion to direct staff to put the anaerobic digestion process to a request for proposal (RFP) and bring results back in January 2019.

Siopis and Simpson both advised against the action, stating it was premature.

Oshawa Councillor John Aker agreed.

“That is a hurry-up situation where you make mistakes. This is a very expensive project, and a very-long-term expenditure, let’s at least take a path that has some caution on it,” he said.

The motion was eventually defeated.