For the past eight years, Simcoe County has been trying to innovate their waste management, and on Tuesday, they took another step toward seeing their dreams become a reality.
Committee of the Whole passed the request for a County Official Plan amendment for the proposed Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC) at 2976 Horseshoe Valley Road in Springwater.
Deputy Mayor of Springwater Township Don Allen raised his concerns with the project right off the bat. Last week, Springwater council requested a public meeting on the matter.
“I believe there has not been sufficient follow up. For a project of this size there should be a follow up meeting,” said Allen. “Fire potential is a huge concern... the report says it is a low concern which I find hard to believe.”
“I believe we are rushing,” said Allen.
David Parks, director of planning, economic development and tourism with the county, indicated that county staff looked into all concerns brought forward by the public and councils but that they couldn’t address those concerns with specificity until the land was approved.
Springwater Mayor Bill French spoke up to support Allen in his concerns.
“I don’t believe the residents received complete answers,” said Allen.
“This downward pressure on the lower levels (of government) really bothers me, because then (the municipalities) are forced to adjust our Official Plans to be in line with the county’s plan,” said French. “Is this really for the greater good?”
Ramara Township Mayor Basil Clarke was vocal about his issues with the way the county has done business.
“There’s no way we would allow the private sector to do this... to come in and clear cut 11 hectares. The county shouldn’t be getting special treatment. I support an organics facility, but not on this site,” said Clarke, to applause from some members of the public.
French put forward a motion to defer until an open house could occur, however it wasn’t seconded.
Council adopted a no-new-landfills policy in 2010, and at the rate landfills in the county are filling up, they will be full in eight or nine years.
“We’re already shipping off about 50% of our garbage to Hamilton,” said Rob McCullough, director of solid waste management for the county, in a meeting on Monday.
The cost of shipping the garbage to Hamilton is $1.65 million a year, and the cost is only going up.
While Simcoe County is the second highest diverting municipality in Ontario, the amount of waste each person generates is still increasing by about 1% every year.
“We want to do our best to divert how much is going to the landfill,” said McCullough. “We’re relying on people from the outside to do this... and therefore, what they want to charge us. This gives us the ability to be the masters of our own fate as we go forward.
“Having our own processing plant will put us in the driver’s seat.”
The new facility is expected to process 30,000 tonnes worth of capacity. The county expects it will only need about half that capacity initially and will need the rest to accommodate population growth over the next 20 to 30 years.
There are two major components of the proposed ERRC.
The first component is a material management facility (MMF) where waste from multiple collection vehicles is consolidated and transferred allowing for cost-effective shipment to other locations. The second component is an organics processing facility (OPF) where green-bin materials are brought, broken down and converted into resources for use within the county such as compost, fertilizer or fuel.
“In the waste world, utilizing bio gas from organics is where it’s at right now. There’s a lot of interest,” said Stephanie Mack, special projects supervisor with the county.
McCullough referenced the organics technology being used at organics facilities in Surrey, B.C. where they are at a point where they can inject the fuel into their pipelines to fuel their natural gas fleet of garbage collector trucks.
“It’s a real circular economy... it’s quite exciting!” says McCullough. “While we’re not the first, we hope to be among the leaders.”
The county considered 502 candidate sites for the facility. Those sites were narrowed down based on public consultation, on-site visits, and analysis of the sites to come to the conclusion that the Horseshoe Valley Road site was the best for what the county was looking to accomplish.
As the property was not zoned, the county went about changing the designation and zoning, which is why the Official Plan needs to now be amended to move forward.
“We won’t know for certain what all the prices are until we do a proper request for proposals,” said McCullough.
Opponents to the ERRC, such as the Friends of Simcoe Forests, have listed dangers to the environment, fire hazards, odour, traffic and costs as issues worth considering before going forward with the project.
“We’re not against it – we’re against where it’s going,” said Heather Rutherford, on behalf of Friends of Simcoe Forests.
“It’s almost as though the county is pushing this forward without the municipality having any say,” she said.
While the county has indicated it will commit to a two-for-one pledge where they will plant two hectares of forest elsewhere in the same general area for every hectare they cut down to build the facility, Rutherford feels these promises are not in good faith.
“It’s a natural heritage area. It takes a long time for these forests to develop,” says Rutherford.
Simcoe County has 12,000 hectares of forest, and in the last five to 10 years, it added 202 hectares within the central part of the county.
In the two years since the site location was announced, the county consulted with the public, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Natural Resources, forestry and the NVCA.
“This has been a process that has been two years in the making,” says McCullough.
McCullough indicates that all the answers they’ve received from different ministries, experts and the public have been included in the reports received by council. He also indicated that Springwater Township has been consulted on the project since November 2016.
McCullough clarifies though that they’re still far off from a design being decided upon.
“We’re a long way from final design,” said McCullough.
As for the next steps in the project, the amendment will come to county council on June 26.
If council adopts, it will be sent to the province for approval. The province will have 210 days from submission to send back approval, which is anticipated by early 2019.
Assuming the approvals are in place, work is slated to begin on the site in 2019, commissioning the MMF in 2021 and the OPF in 2024.