Petrolia council closes compost site for this year; wants to work with MOE to open in 2018

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Waste Management employee Clarence Postma grabs an armful of sticks from the back of a pickup during the first of Petrolia’s compost days at the Progress Drive site. The Town of Petrolia has eight more days planned throughout the year after closing its own compost site after a Ministry of the Environment inspection. Heather Wright Photo

Waste Management to provide services for 2017

Petrolia residents won’t have access to the town’s compost site for at least a year.
Councillors approved a plan Monday night which provides seven compost days at Waste Management’s Progress Drive site as the town tries to figure out if the Maude Street compost site is feasible to operate.
On March 22, inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change came to Petrolia to tour the site as part of the ministry’s planned inspection program in the region.
By March 29, a report with 14 items which needed to be dealt with landed on Director of Operations Mike Thompson’s desk.
The bulk of the issues deal with record keeping. The ministry requires two years of data about what is going in and out of the compost site to be available at the site. The staff was to check what was coming into the site before it made it through the gates, not after. Compost records weren’t complete so the inspectors couldn’t tell how long some of the compost had been there.
There were no records of training for the staff and the testing that was required wasn’t being done. And when the town took over the operation in 2013 from Terrico General – no one informed the ministry.
But there were other problems, too. Inspectors say large logs had been burned on site, even though the conditions of operation “clearly outlines that no burning shall occur on site, alternative measures to dispose of this waste are mandatory.”
And Marcotte Disposal had a bin on site which it was dumping and then removing garbage from. The inspectors deemed that a transfer site and the town would need a permit for that.
Thompson, in a report to council, estimates that to meet the requirements of the ministry it could cost between $35,000 and $55,000.
The ministry was also worried about leechate running into Bear Creek.
And some of the timelines to make changes were tight. The ministry inspectors wanted the staff trained in 15 days and for the town to produce a report five days later showing they had been trained and what they had been told.
It also wanted some of the testing requirements met in 15 days and a detailed monitoring plan in 30 days.
Officials from the ministry told The Independent the list were not orders which would need immediate attention, but action items.
Town staff decided to find an alternative, knowing it would be difficult to solve the issues laid out in the report quickly.
It contacted Waste Management and arranged a compost day April 20 at the Progress Drive site. Thompson says about 128 people came out with their yard waste and were happy with using the depot.
The town will provide seven more composting opportunities, including two in May and one each month until November.
Residents will have to buy a $20 pass to be able to access all seven opportunities.
Thompson, in his report to council estimates it will cost $18,032 to use Waste Management’s compost area, based on the amount of compost which was coming into the town site.
If the town sells the same amount of compost passes, $8,000, “then the expense to the taxpayer will be much less than last year.”
The town’s budget for composting was $20,000.Councillor Ross O’Hara felt the timelines attached to the ministry inspectors report were very short, making it difficult to comply. But he’s not ready yet to say the town should stop operating its own site.
“I would still like to try and work with staff and maybe next year maybe there is a possibility we can reactivate our compost site.”
Town staff is trying to arrange a meeting with the MOE to figure out what needs to be done, how long it can take and what it will cost. And while Councillor Joel Field says he received positive comments about the hastily arranged compost alternative, not everyone was happy. Two people were at the council chambers for the issue.
One, John Mather, was vocal with his criticism saying he shouldn’t have to pay an extra fee for composting.
“I pay my taxes, which I feel are fairly high. You people dropped the ball because you didn’t follow the codes; why should the taxpayer be on the hook?”
But O’Hara says the fee isn’t unreasonable.
“I use it, I know a lot of people use it. But the $20 pass to go down there, that’s a real bargain.”
And Karen Carter, in a letter to council, urged town leaders to find a solution. “Town council and staff must find a way to keep this site open. I would imagine the many frequent users of the site would be willing to pay a higher user fee if they knew council was making a concerted effort to comply with the regulations.”
Chief Administrative Officer Manny Baron says the town wants to be able to provide a compost site. “We’d love to be able to accommodate a compost (site) but only if it makes sense for the ratepayers and it makes sense in the Ministry of the Environment’s eyes and the users.”
Thompson adds if the compost site remains closed it is not known what it will cost to decommission it.

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