Hamilton has been promised $23 million in federal money for a new facility to treat sewage sludge, but the city has no idea right now what that facility will be or what technology it will use to deal with the sludge.

Ottawa has promised the city up to $22.91 million to build a new waste treatment facility at the city’s Woodward Avenue treatment plant.

The facility would deal with “biosolids” — the roughly 100 tons of sewage the city creates every day. Currently, a treated version of the sludge is spread on local farm fields.

'We’ve got plans in place now, and projects that are going to have a real legacy influence on the environment around Hamilton.' - Dan McKinnon, director of Hamilton water

It isn't a sexy subject to talk about, said Dan McKinnon, the city’s director of water. But “this is really important.”

When combined with planned upgrades to the Woodward facility, “we’ve got plans in place now, and projects that are going to have a real legacy influence on the environment around Hamilton.”

David Sweet, MP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, announced the money at city hall on Wednesday. It comes from the P3 Canada Fund for public-private partnerships.

The city still doesn’t know what form the new facility will take. It could be for incineration, pyrolysis or another technology, McKinnon said. The city issued a preliminary call for interest last year and got 17 responses. It will put out a request for proposals next year.

Whatever operator the city chooses, the P3 money will pay for 25 per cent of the cost of building the facility. The city will pay for the other 75 per cent, plus the cost of operating the facility for the next 30 years. The maximum budget is around $111 million over 30 years, McKinnon said.

Liberty Energy, a California-based company, was interested in building an incinerator in Hamilton for the city’s biomass.

The company hasn’t officially said that it’s not interested anymore, McKinnon said. But that could be the case.

Liberty’s proposal was predicated on having the incinerator on its own property, he said. And the city didn’t produce enough biomass to make the incinerator project economically viable.

“I don’t know if they’ll have an interest in this or not,” he said.

The federal money, said Mayor Bob Bratina, means it’s a $23 million load off local taxpayers.

“Had we gone ahead on our own project, there would have been $23 million of money on our backs that somehow we’d have to finance,” he said.

When a technology is chosen, Bratina said, incineration won't necessarily win the day.

"There seem to be four or five (operators) in the game now."