Since several high-profile Canadian composting facilities failed a few years ago, or experienced operational upsets and odor problems, it’s become more difficult to win community acceptance for the construction of new plants. The industry as a whole needs success stories; companies or consortia whose members work together to ensure the proper operation of their facilities.
Well-constructed and well-run composting facilities in Canada may not receive as much news coverage as the failures, but their design, construction, and operation provide useful lessons for professionals in the composting field.
A Canadian leader
With the construction of 12 composting facilities under its belt in Canada, Maple Reinders has become a design-build leader in the composting sector. Much of the company’s expertise stems from 40-years experience designing and building almost 500 water and wastewater treatment plants.
The company’s newest showcase composting facility is the Hamilton Centralized Composting Facility, build utilizing technology from its Dutch partner, Christiaens Group. Maple Reinders involvement in the Hamilton facility won the 100 per cent Canadian, family-owned business a Design-Build Award from the Canadian Design-Build Institute, only one of several awards the facility has garnered.
The facility cost $30.7 million to build and can process 60,000 tonnes of organic waste per year (about a third of Hamilton’s residential waste). The aerated static pile uses sealed concrete tunnels to control heat, moisture and oxygen. Problems related to outdoor composting (e. g., odor, vermin, flies, weather-related delays) are eliminated. The plant was built on reclaimed industrial land; its closed system recycles water and contains odors via a 12,000 cubic metre biofilter.
Since completion of the Hamilton facility in May 2006, Maple Reinders has constructed a 60,000 t/y facility in Peel Region, a 12,000 t/y facility in Cape Breton, and is currently completing work on a 15,000 t/y biosolids composting facility in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
As successful as the company has been in the design and construction of composting facilities is Canada, Senior Vice President John Haanstra admits that the key to successful composting is in operations.
Operational issues are key
Although Maple Reinders does not operate the facilities, they make every effort to ensure that operational issues are not a result of poor design or construction. Asked about what aspects of the design and construction are the most important, John Haanstra responded, “Money needs to be put on what counts: odor control, efficient material handling, and health and safety.”
In an effort to ensure successful operations of the facilities it constructs, Maple Reinders partnered with a Dutch-based operations company — Van Kaathoven Group — to assist in the design-build of the Hamilton plant. The compost master (the Dutch equivalent of a brew master) from Van Kaathoven Group, Ad Geerts, spent the first six months following start-up at the facility assisting in getting the operation running smoothly.
A key factor in the long term success of a composting facility is that the partners involved share the same commitment to success. For design-build- operate contracts, Maple Reinders utilizes composting technology from Christiaens Group in the Netherlands and the operational experience of Aim Group, based in Hamilton, Ontario.
During the construction phase of any project, Maple Reinders identifies the best local subcontractors at a specific locale to help ensure success.
To ensure that all parties involved pull in the same direction, Maple Reinders has instituted a “Statement of Commitment” that all partners as asked to sign prior to the start of a project; this is their pledge to open dialogue and integrity.
Although open dialogue and integrity seems obvious, it doesn’t always occur. A great example of the how the partnership charter worked can be found in the Hamilton plant. Signatories included the City of Hamilton, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Christiaens Controls B. V., Dillon Consulting, Aim Environmental Group, Metric Electrical Inc., and Associated Engineering.
The success of the partnership in Hamilton can be shown through the awards the facility has won including the 2007 Innovation Award from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA).
Advice to municipalities
For municipalities contemplating the construction of a composting facility to manage source separated organics (SSO) and/or biosolids, Haanstra recommends large, centralized facilities for regions of municipalities. By pooling resources, several municipalities can capitalize on economies of scale. With the fixed costs for specific aspects of the design-build process, it makes more sense for smaller communities to commit to one large facility. By doing so, funds area available to ensure the facility has excellent odor controls, that expert staff are well-trained, and equipment produces a quality product.
John Nicholson, M. Sc., P. Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org