Public interest in alternatives to waste-to-energy — a “preferred option” developed by a joint team looking at disposal options for the 35 to 40 per cent of municipal waste that cannot easily be recycled or composted — has prompted politicians in Hamilton-Niagara to consider the idea of pre-treating garbage so it can be landfilled with little odor, leachate or greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics of incineration say that “stabilized” waste could be landfilled in an industrial area, rather than on rural farmland. Members of the Niagara- Hamilton WastePlan Joint Working Group have agreed to investigate the idea further.
Welland Mayor Damian Goulbourne said that citizens at recent public meetings “made wonderful points and I think we are obligated to look at them. The clear message in Niagara Region was take a look at stabilized waste. If we have to slow down a little bit, so be it.”
Consultants had recommended waste-to-energy. The WastePlan working group has to decide whether to recommend that option to Niagara and Hamilton councils. Both jurisdictions are cooperating in finding a shared disposal option. Staff had suggested the decision be made March 9, but that date is now likely to be pushed back.
Consultant Steve Plaice of Jacques Whitford Ltd. said Halifax has Canada’s only waste-stabilization system and it isn’t on a par with those in Europe. Noting it still smells and produces leachate, he said, “That site I would not put in an industrial area.”
David Hart Dyke, the lone Hamilton citizen on the panel, said he’d “heard a lot about stabilized landfill, liked what I heard, but don’t know enough about it. If a landfill doesn’t have to go on agricultural land, we have to take another look.”
Hart Dyke said the consultants “properly did not consider political implications …, but at some point politics has to creep into it.” He said the group must be able to defend its final choice.
Plaice said the group would “have to go back and review assumptions, and a lot of it will be political.”
Dave Merriman of MacViro Consultants suggested looking for an existing stabilized landfill in an industrial area, so Hamilton-Niagara officials could “see what it looks like and smells like and could you successfully site it in your industrial areas.”
Barry Friesen, recently recruited from Halifax to be director of Niagara’s waste management division, welcomed yesterday’s action, saying: “I worked for the last 10 years to avoid at all costs thermal treatment or incineration.”
He said a large incinerator might end up short of fuel if Hamilton and Niagara exceed their goal of diverting 65 per cent of all waste from landfill.