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‘We’re not finished’

Region response due by end of the month; report shows discrepancies between testing methods

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Incinerator

The Durham York Energy Centre is still undergoing testing before it can begin commercial operation. (The Oshawa Express file photo).

The clock is ticking for the region to decide whether the Durham York Energy Centre goes into commercial operation.

Upon wrapping up its acceptance testing last month, Covanta – the New Jersey based operator of the site – submitted its final report for approval from the region and the province’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

However, Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, says a matter of concern in the preliminary viewing of the report is something that wasn’t part of the acceptance testing.

“There was almost no correlation between the stack test results and the continuous monitoring cartridges, where that wasn’t part of the compliance test for Covanta…but it does raise some rather troubling issues,” Curtis said at the meeting. “We’re going to have to get some expertise on board to try and drill down and see what the issues with respect to that are. Right now, based on what it appears, the cartridges were running about five times as high as the stack test results, so they were in the same location measuring the same stuff, so it should’ve been the same results, but they’re not.”

Gioseph Annello, the region’s manager of waste planning and technical services, tells The Oshawa Express the cartridge tests – typically done for 30-day periods – were done over the same four-hour stretches that the stack tests were taken to see what correlation there was between the two. Annello adds that it is unknown at this point what caused the large discrepancy.

“We’re not finished. We still have to do another evaluation. This is a long-term thing, so we’ll be gathering data,” Annello says. “We’re…seeking outside council to see what could possibly account for that. It’s not unheard of.”

In addition to the discrepancies between the stack tests and the cartridge test results, Curtis said there were minor exceedances on the amount of ash being produced by the incinerator.

As well, Covanta has asked for the first stack test – one that showed levels of dioxins and furans well above provincial limits – be thrown out.

“The first stack test Covanta claims is contaminated and it was over, unless it’s thrown out. The other two stack tests were within the limits for dioxins and furans,” Curtis said. “That has been forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment for their review and comment with respect to compliance, and I’m not sure when we’re going to hear back from that.”

Lindsay Davidson, the media relations officer for the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, told The Oshawa Express in an email that the ministry “recently received the report on the source testing and it is currently under review,” adding they expect to complete it within the next month.

The current deadline for the region to either accept the testing or give Covanta a failing grade and have them redo it is Dec. 26.

Regional approval

Annello says the review period and final deadline is cutting it close to Christmas, but expects everything will be completed on time.

“There’s quite a bit of review happening right now. It’s a 30-day review, so we feel we have until the 26th of December to make a determination,” Anello says. “Right now, I can say that everything is kind of preliminary and really until we get all the various aspects and all the various reviewers engaged and at the table, we won’t know exactly what the outcome is.”

However, with the deadline pushing close to Christmas, Anello says the region will ask for an extension if needed.

“We will take the time we need. If we need to get an extension, we will ask for it. Right now our target is to get it done on time,” he says. “But again, if any one of those agencies can’t comment, then we’ll have to get an extension.”

Before signing off on the report one way or another, the team making the decision on the report must meet with regional councillors to explain its reasoning. Anello says there are plans for all members of that team to get together this week.

If the decision is made that the report shows Covanta in compliance, the incinerator will be able to enter commercial operation. However, if it is found that Covanta failed the test, it will have a chance to do another 30-day acceptance test at a time of its choosing.