| Apr 24, 2008

Feature Article - April 24, 2008

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Feature Article -April 24, 2008 Composting plan faces oppositionBy Jeff Green

A proposal to alter the zoning of a property on the Westport Road was the subject of a well-orchestrated show of opposition at a Central Frontenac Township public meeting in Sharbot Lake on Monday night.

The property is owned by Casey Shea (left), who runs Earthworx, a landscaping company that operates a sand pit and distribution and screening location for topsoil, gravel, and finished compost there. The zoning of the site allows for a composting operation to be operated there, but Earthworx is seeking to amend the zoning in order to permit the composting of what are called “separated organics” as well as the yard waste, that the current zoning permits, and is also asking that material from outside of Central Frontenac be allowed to be transported to the site for composting, which is not currently permitted.

Earthworx has never applied for a Certificate of Approval from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MoE) to establish composting at the site, but if they receive zoning approval they intend to go through that process. They plan to answer a recently released request for proposal from the City of Kingston to receive organic waste and truck it to their Godfrey site for composting.

Earthworx currently manages two composting sites for yard waste for the City of Kingston.

Glenna Asselstine was the first to address council. She raised a number of concerns. The first was about the possibility of materials such as animal carcasses, human feces and medical waste finding their way into the composting facility.

“There are other potential problems,” she said, “such as odor caused by excess moisture, an ammonia odor, pollution of the water and ground, buffering between the site and surface, fire or spontaneous combustion, sparked from over-heated machinery, and more.”

She also claimed that there is “material on the site now that is from the City of Kingston. What that means is that he [Casey Shea] has violated the current bylaw.”

Del Stowe, a councilor from the Bedford District of South Frontenac, where a lot of the people who live closest to the border hugging the site reside, also addressed council.

“When this proposal first came to our township, my first impression was that this was going to be a very good opportunity. We didn’t say much and we gave them our blessing,” Stowe said. “But then people came to my door and informed me of their concerns, leading me to realise that I dropped the ball on this. This operation is suited to places that are farther away from dwellings. I’m asking you to give serious consideration to this.

“Take some time, remembering that the residents were here first. Please do not take this lightly. Let’s go green green; let’s not go green red.”

Richard Zelisnak appeared on behalf of the Stinson family. He talked about his own experiences in Thorold, where a composting and waste disposal site are located in the vicinity of a large subdivision. He talked about odor.

“Unless they can control it, the smell is atrocious,” he said. I’m not pleased with what the ministry does, they don’t protect the people who are affected. Why should local people pay the price for a commercial enterprise that has no interest in the community?”

Mike Coulter, who has owned a school bus for 25 years, said that because of the increased traffic, the “potential for a catastrophic accident is greatly increased if this goes through. This isn’t shock tactics, this isn’t fear mongering; this is a cold hard fact. I beg council to turn this down.”

Finally Ed Kennedy from the Frontenac Landowners Association said that people’s “right to use or enjoy property might be affected by this, and the landowners will stand with the people affected.

“Make your decision,” he told council, “No threats, but whatever you decide, you will each be held personally accountable.”

Casey Shea then addressed council and the 100 plus people who had given each of the earlier speakers rousing ovations.

“A lot of the concerns you have brought up are relevant,” he said, “and I want to set the record straight. The first step in this is the zoning amendment. The second is the MoE, who have stringent requirements before granting approvals.”

He also said, “There would be purely organic material and leaf and yard waste, no medical waste, or human feces.”

Concerns about odor are also legitimate, he said, “and the main process for alleviating odor concerns is through process and procedures. Again, the MoE is very vigilant when it comes to procedures.”

Shea proposed setting up a public liaison committee to consider all of the issues that were being raised at the meeting and could come up as the process moves forward, but got little response from the audience.

Members of Central Frontenac Council had little to say.

Councilor Norm Guntensperger asked Casey Shea if he was currently bringing in material for composting from Kingston to the site, and Shea said he was not.

Council passed a motion asking their planning consultant Glenn Tunnock to prepare a report on the zoning amendment request, taking into account the public comment.

When contacted by phone the next day, Casey Shea seemed undaunted by the opposition he had encountered. “I don’t have anything negative to say about the community concerns. Glenna Asselstine, for example, made very good points. We are finally getting down to the issues, and I am more than willing to address all the issues, but the big thing in all of this is trust. At the end of the day, when you take away all of the drama, you find some concerns that can be addressed.”

He reiterated that Earthworx is “not in the garbage business; we are in the landscaping business” in reference to allegations that items have been dumped at the site on the Westport Road. “When the snow recedes, you have some litter in the ditch and on the site, but this happens everywhere and we have cleaned it up.”

He also talked about the kinds of approvals he would need from the MoE before opening up a composting site. One is an approval for the operation of a composting facility, another is a certificate for air. “If an odour is exhausted from the site we would be liable for a fine of up to $100,000 per day,” he said.

A third approval would be needed for storm water management to address issues such as leachate.

“This is a great news story or Central Frontenac,” he said. “This is being designed as a regional facility, and we are not reinventing the wheel here, these kinds of operations are fairly well established. There are some fears and concerns from my community and they are addressable and can be managed without risk.

“I’m not going to get rich here. I’m a simple dirt farmer.”

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