• James Armstrong

Working out the kinks of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges organic waste treatment machine


PHOTO COURTESY SOCIÉTÉ DE GESTION DES MATIÈRES RÉSIDUELLES DE VAUDREUIL-SOULANGES

The organic waste treatment machine in Sainte-Justine-de-Newton awaits pre-production testing.

In an era when the emphasis is on local sustainability, reducing carbon emissions, recycling and composting, the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) decided in 2015 to purchase a machine that would transform organic material into fertilizer. The initial cost of the equipment was $304,440.58 according to the contract published on Le systéme électronique d’appel d’offres (SEAO) du gouvernement du Québec. The supplier was ASM Organic Recyclates Limited from Uxbridge, England.

The ‘infamous’ machine

Saint-Lazare resident Glen Gregory raised the issue of the machine with Mayor Robert Grimaudo during the December, 2018 council meeting which saw the approval of the purchase of brown bins for the collection of organic waste materials. “When you are referring to this infamous machine that was purchased by the MRC, was the idea good?” asked the mayor rhetorically. “Absolutely. It looked like a good idea at the time.”

Grimaudo noted, however, that once the machine was delivered serious problems began. “It never came with the promised technician or the appropriate CSA approved labels and standards. A lot of work had to be done.” Grimaudo pointed out that ensuing modifications to the machine had added a considerable amount to the original price but did not state a dollar amount.

“It is now operational,” said Grimaudo in December. “It only took three years.” The mayor invited Gregory to take a guided tour of the site in Sainte-Justine-de-Newton in January, 2019. “I have suggested to the MRC that we need to have public visits to this machine,” said the mayor.

Non-existent company

Gregory, who has a background in composting, pointed out the British company had declared bankruptcy and it would likely be impossible to purchase parts or another machine.

“Whether or not the company is there no longer matters because the machine has been completely modified,” responded the mayor. “The technology is wonderful, being able to take organic waste and turn it into fertilizer and return it to citizens is amazing,” he said adding that tests were currently being run on the equipment. Though it has been deemed operational, it is not yet functioning at the full capacity necessary to serve the region.

“So, that machine processes one ton per day and from what I understand, we will be collecting 40 tons per day,” said Gregory. “When we are organically at 100 per cent will we need to spend $12 million on equipment?” he asked.

The mayor responded, no, that since 2015 such machines had become available in North America. He referenced a composting program in the Greater Toronto Area that was functioning well.

“Ideally, each municipality would have one of these machines in place and treat organic waste materials locally, but we’re not there, yet,” said Grimaudo.

End product not compost

Gregory noted the end product is fertilizer as opposed to organic compost matter and doesn’t absorb water when it comes into contact with the soil.

“One way or the other, we cannot even give away fertilizer unless it meets federal specifications,” said Grimaudo adding the MRC-VS had a program in place to test and verify the end product.

Gregory told The Journal he had accepted the mayor’s invitation for a tour of the facility but had not received a response as of publication date. The Journal also took the mayor up on his offer of a tour and that request remains in process.

Meanwhile, organic waste materials collected in brown bins from Vaudreuil-Soulanges communities are currently trucked to a static composting facility in Lachute, Québec.

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