City ponders organic waste facility

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The Town of St. Paul has a vision for an organics waste processing facility that tailors to municipalities across the Lakeland.

The Regional Organics Facility is still in the preliminary stages, so what materials will be accepted, and who will be involved is still undecided. In January, the Town of St. Paul approached the City of Cold Lake about the future of the project, including a feasibility study.

The Preliminary Front End Engineering Design study is partially funded with the help of the Alberta government, and is to be conducted by Tetra Tech Inc. The study will evaluate the feasibility of building and maintaining an organics waste facility, and will better determine the amount and type of municipal solid waste available in the region. It will look into how that waste could be diverted from local landfills, and the technology necessary to transform the waste into useful energy.

“We are going to have to go through this a little bit further to understand whether or not this project has merit. The Town of St. Paul is very sold on this. They’re very optimistic that there is a project here. That being said… they have challenges in terms of their waste management right now… We are in a different scenario,” said city CAO Kevin Nagoya.

Manager of infrastructure services for Cold Lake, Azam Khan, said the city is already on the right track in terms of meeting the province’s overall target of 80 per cent diversion by 2030, which is the ultimate goal of the St. Paul facility.

Currently, the city is supporting and diverting about 30 per cent of household waste from going to Class II landfills through a diversion facility in Thorhild.

“The City of Cold Lake, the MD of Bonnyville, and the Town of Bonnyville are probably the largest waste generators in the northeast. That means we are paying for most of it. The challenge that we have… is if we are paying for most of the facility, will we be driving the boat in terms of what decisions will be made in order to get to the end product?” noted Nagoya.

There are three possible directions the project could go. The first would include a material recovery facility (MRF), anaerobic digestion, and biogas combined heat and power. The second, and currently the favoured option for the Town of St. Paul, includes an MRF and anaerobic digestion, with the use of biogas combined heat and power and refuse derived fuel production.

The third and final scenario would see the project incorporate the construction of the MRF, anaerobic digestion, gasification and biogas combined heat and power.

Option one would see a total of 74 per cent of regional organic waste diverted from landfills at a capital cost of $27 million. Ninety-two percent of organic waste is diverted in option two, with a capital price tag of $28 million. The third, and most costly scenario, would mean 87 per cent is diverted, at a price of $41 million.

The Town of St. Paul has noted that the second option is the best opportunity to be technically and financially viable and to meet the overall project goals.

The total annualized cost per tonne, with the inclusion of 25 per cent grant funding, is $45.38. However, they could be up for more grant funding, reducing their overall cost per tonne.

The city has a few hesitations when it comes to the project, and are looking forward to what the feasibility study will ultimately reveal.

Should the city get on board, the facility would require 100 per cent of the area’s organic waste, including the city’s current recycling program.

“It might be more expensive for us to divert, and that is the concern that we have,” explained Nagoya.

He continued that the city, the MD and the Town of Bonnyville are all expressing the same concern. As soon as one of them decides not to be a part of the project it “really changes the dynamics of the conversation.”

For now, the city will watch and learn before agreeing to sign on to the initiative.

Coun. Duane Lay added, “I am all for having a good look at it, and then seeing what the numbers look like in the end… It might be ideal.”

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