What went wrong?

October 21, 2011

Healthy Environment

A former reporter, Magda Konieczna, in a recent Special to the Mercury wrote: “The opening of the new (composting) plant is a great thing.  But the city needs to offer a clear explanation of what went wrong last time, and how we can be sure it won’t go wrong again.  That’s the least you, the residents of Guelph, deserve. ”

Fair enough.  I’ll bite.

From my perspective, there were four areas of concern:

  1. Design – This was one of the first facilities of its kind in North America and although the best materials of the day were used in the design, the structure did not hold up to the corrosive environment created by the composting process.
  2. Asset Management – At that time, the City was not planning adequately for life cycle building maintenance costs.
  3. Technology – The type of odour management technology available today was simply not available 20 years ago when the facility was being designed.  However, the best odour management technology that was available was used.
  4. Operational – One odour management practice, i.e. always keeping the doors closed when not bringing in wet waste, was not consistently followed.  This was performance management issue.

What has changed to ensure these concerns won’t reoccur:

  1.  Design – The new facility has been designed to deal with the corrosive environment created by the composting process.
  2. Asset Management – The 10-year capital budget consolidates new asset management policies and practices that shift resources to the ongoing maintenance of our buildings.
  3. Technology – New odour management technologies are available today and have been incorporated into the new facility, exceeding the odour management technologies in place in other similar facilities in Canada.
  4. Operational – The City has engaged a private sector operator.  AIM Environmental has years of experience and expertise in managing similar composting facilities.

Although there were concerns with the facility, it was a great success in terms of achieving very high rates of waste diversion from landfill.  During the peak of its performance, Guelph achieved 58% waste diversion from disposal, one of the highest rates in the Province.

As Magda noted in her opening line – “the opening of Guelph new composting facility is truly great news”.  If it provides further assurance to our neighbours, we are no longer pioneers but can today take advantage of proven technology to reclaim our place as an environmental leader in the province.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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2 Comments on “What went wrong?”

  1. rickboersma Says:

    Thanks for that. A clear, succinct acknowledgement and outlining of lessons learned.

  2. Jim Grant Says:

    Time will tell. Fingers crossed, as at $32 million plus trucks and bins we can’t afford another blaming contest.

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