Proposed biosolids sight in Cambridge - photo courtesy Mark Shiffer

Best place for a biosolids plant?

Proposed biosolids sight in Cambridge - photo courtesy Mark Shiffer
Proposed biosolids sight in Cambridge – photo courtesy Mark Shiffer

Region debates location of a plant in either Cambridge or Waterloo

Mark Shiffer

While the casino debate continues, new controversy has arisen about our plumbing in Waterloo Region.

The debate is whether to build a biosolids processing facility at all or continue to send our waste elsewhere, and if built, what kind of waste processing should be built and where it should be located.

Biosolids are the material left over after sewage is treated. The Region of Waterloo is considering a proposal that would see treated waste shipped to a new facility to be heated and dried. The process would produce pellets that could be used as fertilizer for farming or to create renewable energy.

There are two potential sites that have been suggested by the Region. One in is Waterloo near the landfill site on Erb Street West and the other is on Savage Drive in Cambridge. Currently, Cambridge is seen as the preferred city.

Right now most of the waste is being shipped out of the Region. This has worked in the past, but as the population continues to increase steadily, it isn’t a practical long-term solution. As well, ethically it doesn’t seem right to ship our problems elsewhere. A solution will have to be found locally.

A Biosolids Master Plan report written in 2011 indicates that the Region of Waterloo is in favour of a heating and drying process for treated sewage. This has several advantages. As dried material, it is lighter and smaller, which would reduce the amount of trucks needed for transportation from the facility.

However, it’s also expensive and requires a large amount of energy to operate. It is estimated that the initial cost to build the structure will be $80 million. There is also the question of potential odours from the process. The Region argues that trucks will deliver the waste pellets into an enclosed space that will be filtrated and won’t emit smells. People working and living nearby are still worried.

Lystek, a local company that deals with biosolids, offers another potential solution. Lystek’s proposal is to turn biosolids into a liquid biofertilizer for land use and greener energy. They claim that they can build a processing facility for a much less expensive bill of $10 million that will emit less odours and reduce the volume of biosolids material.

Citizens in Waterloo feel they have enough existing garbage and odours from the Waterloo Region landfill site. They are worried that a biosolids processing plant will add to the problem. As well, there has been significant new commercial and residential development in that area.

While the site picked in Cambridge has less population density, there are still businesses and homes that are relatively close to the proposed site. Residents complain that they were not given enough information or notice by Waterloo Region to protest against the plan.

There are no easy solutions. We will need to build something to deal with our waste instead of continuing to ship it out. The region should take another look at the kind of processing facility it wants to build and consider the cheaper possibility of turning biosolids into liquid.

Finally, while the Cambridge site does seem to offer a better choice than Waterloo, more remote locations should be explored further as possible solutions.