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Anaerobic digestion proposed for old Northwood Transfer Station

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Big changes are being suggested for the former Northwood Transfer Station on Thornton Road North in Oshawa.

Evergreen Sustainable Solutions is proposing a project at the facility which would see the creation of renewable natural gas and energy through anaerobic digestion.

Martin Vroegh, a representative of Evergreen Sustainable Solutions, said the company acquired the facility last year and has been putting together its plans for future use.

“We’ve been discussing it with the city and the region,” Vroegh told The Oshawa Express.

Opened in 1994, the transfer station previously accepted recyclable and organic materials from businesses, households, and municipalities.

However, Vroegh said the company plans to move away from composting altogether.

“Residents and officials in communities across Ontario have responded very positively to anaerobic digestion. This positive response is because anaerobic digestion does not cause negative impacts, such as odour, as well as the increased value of byproducts,” a media release from the company reads. “These byproducts help fight climate change and improve soil quality for agricultural users. The new facility will use modern, clean, and proven technology used by many municipalities across Ontario and Europe.”

Vroegh said the former transfer station already has some of the features the company desires.

“Instead of trying to find a greenfield, we’re going to upgrade an existing site,” Vroegh said. “In a nutshell, we’ll improve it so not only is it economically viable but also not producing the odours of the former site.”

Smells from the former transfer station led to numerous complaints over the years.

On several occasions, both the City of Oshawa and the Ministry of Environment attempted to have the building’s previous owners address the issues.

In 2014, both Northwood Recycling and its owner were fined thousands of dollars under the Environmental Protection Act.

Vroegh said Evergreen is aware of past problems related to odour and heavy truck traffic, and the company will be reaching out “one-on-one” to local home and property owners to let them know what is going on.

“We want to explain our vision to the community and want to hear from people if they have any concerns. We feel strongly that with this solution, everyone will benefit from a new, clean facility, and we want to be positive partners in the community,” Ward Janssens of Evergreen stated in the media release.

Vroegh said Evergreen is aiming to have operations at the facility up and running by late-2021.

“The facility is projected to cost $40 million from private investment, and we aim to hire 22 people in full-time positions and dozens of additional workers during the construction,” Vroegh said. “Indirectly, the facility will also employ many others like drivers, technical support professionals, and engineers as new technologies and innovations are implemented over time to continuously improve environmental benefits.”

But it appears city staff wants to take a hard look at the situation before moving forward.

City council directed staff to start a land-use study to review the suitability of the current general industrial zoning within parts of the Northwood Business Park, where Evergreen’s facility lies.

The city has also passed an interim control by-law to halt development in the area for one year.

This interim by-law could be discontinued at any time during that timeframe.

Commissioner of development services Warren Munro told The Express the by-law and land study are required to address some concerns.

He noted in the late 2000s the city moved to transition the Northwood Business Park from its past industrial uses.

“We went through a zoning exercise that is consistent with the business park,” Munro adds.

He said staff needs to determine if it’s appropriate to have general industrial uses in a location intended to be a future business park due to the proximity to Durham College and Ontario Tech University.

Munro said the city executed a similar interim control by-law a few years ago on drive-through operations to study where they were appropriate.

He said Evergreen has made “some pitches” to city staff but hasn’t applied for either a building permit or a site plan approval.

Vroegh said Evergreen understands, “the city just wants to take the time to access and study.”

He doesn’t believe this will have an impact on the company’s long-term goals.

“We’re working with the city to resolve any issues they may have,” he said. “The city is doing its due diligence.”

Evergreen is sending notifications to residents and businesses located close to the site to provide feedback and comments through www.egreens.ca, by phone at 1-800-837-0451 or email at infooshawa@egreens.ca.

Evergreen will be hosting a public information session on the proposal on Thursday, March 5 at the Durham Shriners Banquet Hall in Oshawa (1626 Simcoe St. N.) from 6 to 8 p.m.

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