Accepting a proposal for a new waste incinerator along Hamilton’s industrial waterfront would be a step backwards for the city, says Councillor Chad Collins.

But the Hamilton Port Authority calls the energy from waste proposal a chance to showcase Hamilton's leadership in green technology.

With the proposed site on port lands, it’s not clear how much say city hall will have in the decision-a situation that has to change if the city is to find a new economic future, says Collins.

The proposal by Port Fuels & Material Services Inc, is suggested for development on Sherman Avenue, north of Burlington Street. The facility would use a gas plasma technology to divert waste and be capable of managing up to 190,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste and industrial and commercial waste, per year.

"The proposed incinerator conforms to an outdated economic development mindset that’s representative of a different era, and is no longer in keeping with Hamilton’s future vision of the lower city industrial corridor," said the Ward 5 councillor.

The Port Authority, which would act as the landlord, calls the proposal a good one for the city, and says it is wrong to call the technology an incinerator.

"The Gasplasma technology in this facility will be unlike anything proposed in Hamilton in the past," said Larissa Fenn, the port's communications manager, in a statement.

"HPA sees a number of potential benefits from this project, which will showcase Hamilton’s leadership in the clean tech sector.  And it should be noted that the facility is for the purpose of waste processing – not waste disposal. We see this green energy project as a positive addition to the evolving mix of new technologies and industries that make up Hamilton’s thriving commercial port district."

The proposal came to light as the company promoted an open house on its bid, which is for a site on Hamilton Port Authority lands at Pier 15. No formal bid notification has been received by the city. The timing and location of that open house has also prompted immediate criticism from councillors.

Not good enough

The company made a “grave mistake” by not informing people about the project sooner and holding a public consultation on it in a completely different neighbourhood, Coun. Sam Merulla says.

A public open house about the incinerator is scheduled for this Thursday at the Museum of Steam & Technology – and that’s just not good enough, Merulla says.

“We all just found out about this today, and that’s nonsense,” he said. The fact that the meeting is being held the day before a long weekend and in a completely different ward only compounds the problem, he added.

hamilton-garbage-truck

A public open house regarding a proposed energy from waste incinerator is set for Thursday - but the company involved made a “grave mistake” by not informing people about the project sooner and holding the consultation in a completely different neighbourhood, Coun. Sam Merulla says. (Rick Hughes/CBC)

“I’m formally asking for them to cancel the meeting and seek a location closer to the affected area,” he said.

Port Fuels & Material Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company must go through public consultations as a requirement from the provincial government. The Project head, Robert Clark, told the Hamilton Spectator that the technology is "virtually emission-free," and said it is too late to change the timing of the consultation. But he promised there would be more open house opportunities.

But Collins says the proposal raises wider issues about the city’s ability to control waterfront development and the port’s expanding role as an industrial landlord.

Collins says the city’s zoning for the area does not allow an incinerator, but worries the Port Authority’s ability to stretch its definition of “ shipping and navigation” uses could  be used to get around city controls.

Growing concern

“The proposal also highlights a growing concern related to port development and how marine related economic development plans, as part of “Port Operations”, continue to be developed outside of the municipal planning umbrella,” said Collins.  “Many of the past and present Port developments have little to do with ‘shipping and navigation’; they are operations you might find anywhere in the municipality and are not unique to the port.”

Environment Hamilton only received notice about the proposal Monday, says Lynda Lukasik, executive director. “It’s short notice and a problematic night – and it’s not even in the same neighbourhood,” she said. “It’s clear across town.”

As it stands, the public meeting on the project is still scheduled for Thursday at the Museum of Steam and Technology at 900 Woodward Avenue from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.