Petrolia to contract out composting services

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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

Petrolia will contract out its compost services in the future.
Until April, the town ran its own compost site on Maude St. But in the spring, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change inspected the site and issued 14 orders to follow MOECC regulations.
The town closed the site and set up seven compost days for residents run by Waste Management.
Monday, RDWI Consultant Brent Langille told council reopening the site would be too expensive for a town this size.
Langille says if the site were to reopen, the town would need to build a holding pond or divert water runoff from the site to the waste water treatment plant. That would require engineering and changes to the Environmental Certificate of Approval. He says that would cost up to $150,000 alone.
Langille added the site would have to be fenced – although the MOECC’s orders made no mention of fencing – a cost of up to $100,000.
The town would also have to run the site which could cost up to $100,000 per year according to Langille. “You would need an operator there who tracks the loads, checks the temperature, turns the load and you would need a machine for that,” Langille told council.
“For a town this size and the small volume, its really not in the best interest of the town to operate it.”
Langille pointed out town staff were prepared to work with Waste Management to provide up to 20 composting days at a cost of up to $60,000 a year – something Langille thought was a good deal.
But some voiced concern about the plan.
Resident David Hext told councillors he wanted the local site reopened. “If I had to pay 100 bucks a year to use the site, I’d be more than happy to do that,” he says pointing out in Sarnia residents pay $24.50 per year for the compost site.
“It is time for Petrolia to say green is our colour and that’s what we should be.”
And Bob Aldous wasn’t as concerned about who was taking care of the compost as how it was done.
Aldous was one of about 10 per cent of the town’s homeowners who bought a pass for the once a month, four-hour events.
Aldous was frustrated by the long line ups and lack of help.
Aldous says because it was only held a “few days of the year, it meant there was a nightmare of traffic.” He recalled one day when one person took 45 minutes to unload and “when he pulled away there was almost a fist fight because so many people had been waiting so long… There was virtually no supervision at all other than Waste Management people who thought this was a once a month hilarious event.”
“I made the two visits and never came back.”
“If council’s intention is to use Waste Management for compost, there has to be a better system.”
Langille says lower bins would make all the difference to older residents, but adds that might come with a higher cost.
He told councillors there would be ways to reduce costs including using a wood chipper on tree branches. The chips are not considered compost and can be stored without regulations.
Town staff told councillors they had yet to work out a plan with Waste Management and any ideas for saving money on compost would help.
Councillor Grant Purdy suggested a public meeting might be helpful, saying residents might also have some ideas, but CAO Manny Baron questioned what the parameters of the meeting would be and the idea was dropped.
Council did agree to move ahead with negotiations with Waste Management on compost days.
While there wasn’t a specific motion, councillors agreed the town had to work with the MOECC to remove the compost sitting at the now closed facilities.
Langille says depending on what is in the compost, some could be used by local farmers with a Nutrient Management Plan. The rest could be moved to another compost site.
He estimates it will cost about $30,000 to $50,000 to decommission the site.
Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson says the town has been getting “daily emails” from the MOECC staff asking what is going to be done with the site.
Langille says the town has been fortunate the ministry has been so patient, adding in many cases they give a municipality an order and they have only two weeks to complete the task.

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