Controversy Continues over Closed Hamilton Compost Facility

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Odour issues continue to plague the City of Hamilton compost facility located in the east end. The facility has been shut down since June due to  complaints by neighbours who claimed the odour from the Central Composting Facility at 1579 Burlington St. East forced them to stay indoors and keep their windows shut tight.

Odour issues started at the facility in 2016. That’s when the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (now called the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks released new Ontario compost quality standards — the first update since 2004 — that stated compost should be maintained at greater than 40 per cent moisture during curing. As a result of the new standards, facility staff had to keep it compost damp during the curing process which resulted in greater odour generation.

Hamilton Compost Facility

The operational change at the compost facility resulted in nearby residents noticing a strong stench coming from the 12-year-old facility.  Prior to the new provincial regulations, the facility received approximately 3 odour complaints per year.  The year the new regulations were promulgated the odour complaints jumped to 21.  In fact, odour compliants jumped 7 times after the required change in compost curing practices mandated by the Province.

Going back to the old method of composting is really not an option.  In an e-mail to the CBC in response to questions, an Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change spokesperson, Gary Wheeler stated that the City must comply with the new standard if it wants the material to be considered compost.  Otherwise, the material would be considered a waste and would be need to be managed as such (i.e., landfilling). “The city would be required to treat the materials as waste,” Mr. Wheeler said in an email to the CBC in 2017.

If the city doesn’t comply with those standards, said Ontario Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler, then the material isn’t compost.

The facility was constructed in 2006 by Maple Reinders using technology supplied by the Christiaens Group in the Netherlands.  The City of Hamilton owns it, and Aim Environmental Group operates it. It handles compost generated by Hamilton, Halton and Simcoe County — the equivalent of 70,000 tonnes per year from 1,668,000 people.

With the municipal election scheduled for October 23rd, political candidates are letting City residents where they stand on the issue.  One Ward 4 candidate is vowing to have the facility moved out the city if he is elected. Beside the odour, political candidates are also saying noise is an issue at the facility.

Despite the shutdown of its source separated organics composting facility, the City is still encouraging Hamilton residents to keep their regular recycling habits, including separating food waste.  The city says all material that would go to the facility are now being redirected to a different place.

The City of Hamilton has the solution to the odour issue.  It plans to install carbon filters that will filter odour-causing gases from the exist vents of the facility.  Unfortunately, due to the byzantine approvals process the exists in the Province of Ontario, the filters cannot be installed until the facility’s Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) is amended by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks. The timeline for amending an ECA can be anywhere from six to eight months or more.  The original ECA was approved in 2006.  A Notice of Amendment to the ECA was not loaded on the Environmental Bill of Rights Environmental Registry as of September 17th.