Windsor-Essex organic waste plan to face new independent review

·3 min read
A provincial mandate is in place for many municipalities in Ontario to reduce the amount of organic waste going into landfills and divert it to facilities that will put the waste to work. (CBC - image credit)
A provincial mandate is in place for many municipalities in Ontario to reduce the amount of organic waste going into landfills and divert it to facilities that will put the waste to work. (CBC - image credit)

After a marathon debate that lasted more than three hours Tuesday afternoon, Windsor representatives on the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) decided to join with Essex County officials and undertake an independent peer review of recommendations made for the region's Food and Organics Waste Management Plan, despite initially opposing the idea.

"I think that the opportunities here are too great for us to allow for this to pass us by without us moving forward collectively," said Kieran McKenzie, a Windsor City councillor who sits on the board.

Kieran McKenzie is a City of Windsor councillor and sits on the board for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority.
Kieran McKenzie is a City of Windsor councillor and sits on the board for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority.(Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The board is currently looking at ways to implement a provincial mandate to divert organic waste from landfills to facilities that could make beneficial use of the refuse. By 2025, the City of Windsor must divert 70 per cent of its organic waste, while smaller communities would only have to divert 50 per cent. Kingsville, Essex and LaSalle are currently exempt.

A consultant's report put before the board Tuesday explores a number of different options for the authority to consider including composting and a more involved process called anaerobic digestion.

The motion passed gives the green light for EWSWA to search for a consultant to conduct an independent review of the existing proposals, analyze those findings "through a financial, technical and science perspective" and report back within 90 days.

Administrative officers weigh in

Leading up to the meeting, Chief Administrative Officer of Essex County, Mike Galloway, had submitted a letter outlining a number of concerns about rushing into a decision to proceed with a plan until they had "fully analyzed all technologies and the operational and financial impacts to the existing landfill operations."

"I'm always trying to make sure my elected officials are in a position to be fully informed. That means as many questions as can be asked —answers can be given," Galloway told the board Tuesday afternoon, adding that he believed a review could be done in up to 90 days.

Whatever plan's that's there [we need to] make sure that it's solid and it makes sense and is defensible to the public. - Gary McNamara

Further correspondence submitted Monday by Jason Raynar, chief administrative officer for the City of Windsor, questioned the call for a peer review, noting the amount of work that would need to be accomplished to meet the provincial government's mandate.

"It is unclear what a peer review of our own consultant would achieve, not to mention the cost and delay that would result from such a decision," Raynar wrote.

Make sure it's solid

Essex County warden Gary McNamara said it is clear a diversion plan is needed for organic waste but what's needed now is a little bit of patience, time and review.

"Whatever plans that's there [we need to] make sure that it's solid and it makes sense and is defensible to the public," McNamara said.

"That's the only thing we're asking and right now... there's no way I can defend this."

Gary McNamara is warden of Essex County.
Gary McNamara is warden of Essex County.(Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

However, in the end, it was Windsor Coun. Kieran McKenzie who put the motion forward to send the report to peer review.

"Given the framework that the province has given us to work with, we're, as a region, we have different partner municipalities that have different obligations with respect to what's been brought forward by the province," McKenzie said.

"That's certainly created complications for us in terms of developing a regional program."