By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
The incinerator at the Durham York Energy Centre was the centre of attention as regional council discussed the waste management budget for 2019.
As part of the region’s 2019 solid waste management servicing and financing study, staff have recommended an environmental assessment (EA) for a possible capacity expansion at the DYEC.
Wendy Bracken, a Newcastle resident, told council she was “blindsided” by the recommendation to expand the incinerator.
She also noted there were no considerations for the upcoming carbon tax in the accompanying staff report and asked for council to defer its decision.
Oshawa Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson voiced his displeasure at the possibility of an expansion
“I call it the ‘poison factory,’ but some call it the incinerator,” he said.
The proposed expansion to the incinerator would increase the amount of waste processed at the Durham York Energy Centre (DYEC) to 250,000 tonnes per year.
Should the EA move forward, the region would spend no more than $60,000 on consultant services, subject to final budget approval.
Staff also recommended they be allowed to pursue an administrative amendment with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to revise the current Environmental Compliance Approval for the DYEC processing limit.
It currently sits at 140,000 tonnes, but staff wishes to increase it to 160,000 tonnes per year in order to reduce the need for alternate disposal options, as well as to improve operations at the DYEC.
Bracken called both of these proposals problematic and said the recommendation to increase the capacity to 250,000 tonnes did not receive enough consultation from stakeholders.
Linda Gasser, a long time critic of the incinerator, asked council to not support the recommendation to increase the processing limit from 140,000 tonnes to 160,000 tonnes.
Gasser also pointed out the need for a review of certain programs.
According to Mirka Januszkiewicz, the director of waste management services, 80 per cent of the budget for waste management and servicing can be found in contract costs for collection and processing, operating costs for facilities, and environmental monitoring and studies.
She also said staffing makes up another 15 per cent of the budget, while the remaining five per cent is in diversion promotion, community outreach, bylaw enforcement and call centres.
Januszkiewicz said the drivers behind the expansion to the DYEC lay in the facility’s capacity.
In her presentation, she noted 10,000 tonnes of solid waste were by-passed from the DYEC in 2018 in order to stay within the guidelines of the Environmental Compliance Approval limits.
She also said the DYEC was constructed to process 160,000 tonnes of waste per year, 20,000 more than the current limit of 140,000.
Staff estimates increasing capacity will save the region $1.3 million in the first year, and $2.1 million the next. According to the report provided to council, this is “because of increased revenues from electricity and metals, cost avoidance for disposal of bypass waste to landfill and a contractually reduced fee for tonnages processed beyond the owner delivery obligation of 140,000 tonnes.”
Januzkiewicz also noted the region’s organics composting facility is nearing its limit, and the material recovery facility is in need of further upgrades in order to meet current material market specifications.
Another driver for the expansion to the DYEC is growth, she adds, as contracts are directly tied to growth because with more households comes more tonnage.
She said with the rapid growth Durham Region is experiencing, the need for more blue boxes, green bins, and other materials needing to be collected, transferred, and processed or disposed of will grow.
Januszkiewicz also noted the DYEC and organics processing centre are at capacity and the need to raise the capacity will grow to meet demand.
According to Januszkiewicz, operational pressures in the budget include lost market revenues, collection stop growth, inflationary adjustments, tangible assets and asset management, such as the aging equipment, and service level objectives.
The region will is facing capital expenditures of approximately $209.3 million between 2019 and 2028 to meet its solid waste management needs.
There are financial risks, according to commissioner of finance Mary Simpson, such as the anticipated increases to capital, operating and contractual costs, as well as any compliance with new provincial policies, funding frameworks and regulations.
The risk of growth and fluctuations in tonnage and collection stops is also present, as well as the risks of contractual obligation and inflation alongside market volatility.
“There are also potential shifts in tonnages and composition related to changing programs and enhanced extended producer responsibility programs,” they said.
There is also a cost risk for the DYEC relating to regulatory and waste biomass changes that could occur over time.
Another step they are hoping to take would be long-term financial planning that will ensure the best and most sustainable future financing strategies.
The end of the current 20-year waste management strategy plan for Durham Region, implemented in 2000, is nearing its completion.
With the end of the strategy looming, region staff have begun work to create a new long-term plan for waste management. The plan will once again cover a 20-year period, and is expected to address issues such as the pressures created by growth, environmental sustainability, and disposal capacity.
However, there were still concerns surrounding the expansion of the DYEC.
Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier threw a wrench into the request to commence an environmental assessment for the DYEC by asking that staff reevaluate the request and provide more information for council, as he felt they were “Putting the cart before the horse.”
He also wanted staff to look into the potential benefits an anaerobic digestion facility could have as an alternative to expanding the DYEC, and that no other municipality be involved in the project.
Oshawa regional councillors John Neal and Rick Kerr also questioned the lack of movement on the introduction of an anaerobic digestion facility in the region, with Clarington councillor Joe Neal pointing out the topic was broached at regional council as far back as 2014.
Januszkiewicz said they have been unable to look at companies that could provide financing options and they are interviewing companies with proposals.
She also noted they are moving slowly so as to not eliminate potential partners on the project, and are able to “present [council] with as many options without closing doors” as possible.
In the end, council felt they needed more information before beginning an environmental assessment for the expansion, and voted to defer the recommendation until staff can present them with more information by May 31, 2019.