Decomposing Organics and Planning

Organic Waste Disposal

South Frontenac’s waste and recycling contracts are up for renewal in 2020. One of the issues is what should be done with organic waste.

Organics waste, as any other waste, fills up our landfills, but it also has two added negative consequences. Decomposing organic waste is the major source of leachate, liquids, which can potentially carry whatever toxins are in the dump into the surrounding watershed.

The second harm done by organics is, when they decompose, they produce methane, a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. About 12 years ago the Township’s Sustainability Committee found that organic waste in landfills was likely the largest source of greenhouse gasses produced in South Frontenac.

North Grenville, a largely rural township south of Ottawa, says that in 2017 56% of their waste by weight was from organics. Any figure in South Frontenac approaching this number would make organics one of our most pressing waste disposal issues.

At the Public Services Committee staff recently recommended more consistent public education and support for backyard composting rather banning organics from dumps. This approach has been used for over a decade and many residents still organics out with the garabage. Continuing to put organics in our landfills risks increased water pollution, increased greenhouse gases and shorter landfill life.

There would be an added cost to an organic pick up and industrial composting, though Kingston does it. There will also be a significant added cost to incineration, one of the long-term waste disposal options being considered.

The province has also released a new discussion paper on waste and litter. It asks the questions: Do you think the province should ban food waste? [that would be no organic waste in landfills] If so, how do you think a ban would be best developed and implemented? Comments on the province’s proposed approach to organic and other waste disposal issues can be made on the province’s website before April 21.

Provincial Planning Uncertainty

The provincial policy framework that underlies South Frontenac’s planning decisions is currently a bit shaky.

The provincial government is trying to open the province to development. One initiative that received significant attention was the attempt to allow development in the Greenbelt around Toronto. Local opposition forced the Province to remove this piece of legislation.

South Frontenac’s Development Services Committee has passed a motion that the current approval and regulatory process does not adequately protect our lakes and wetlands and calls on the province to strengthen these rules. If this motion is passed by council it will be forward to the government.

The latest provincial salvo is a review of development charges, which may lead to their elimination. Development charges are paid by developers to help offset the costs incurred by increased growth. For instance, they could help pay for a new fire hall, an extra lane on a road, a new ambulance station or an upgraded water system.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says, “growth should pay for itself”. If these charges were eliminated or curtailed, the costs of growth will need to be paid by current residents, making development expensive for existing property tax payers. Peel Region has recently raised concerns about the possible effect that discontinuing development charges would have on water bills.

The direction of the provincial proposals is to decrease community control over development and to make it faster and cheaper for developers.

There is very little public input into these discussions. The government is taking written comments and consulting key stakeholders on a very short timeline. It is possible that Townships will just be told that these are the new rules that limit your control of development and increase your costs.

It is helpful to write the provincial government and express your support for more local control over development, that regulations need to protect the environment and communities, and that developers should pay their share. I am presenting a motion to Council on April 2 asking for Councils support of these positions.

A Loose Water End

Council has released the details of the second legal case  involving the Sydenham Water treatment plant. It concerned small leaks in the pipes and was settled with a payment to the Township and a confidentiality agreement.


About Ross Sutherland

retired nurse, researcher, public health care activist.
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