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Hamilton gasification plant: Will it import waste into city?

Gasification project head Robert Clark says there is more than enough waste produced in Hamilton to meet its needs. But in provincial applications, it seeks permission to bring in waste from across the country.

'We have more than enough in the pipeline to be able to treat Hamilton waste, local Hamilton waste'

The proposed garbage plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)

Gasification project head Robert Clark says there is more than enough waste produced in Hamilton to meet the processing plant's needs. 

But if that is the case, why is the project seeking permission from the province to be able to import waste from across the country?

It ties exactly into what we're trying not to be any longer.- Coun. Sam Merulla

The prospect of a plant that makes Hamilton a destination for garbage from other communities is a worry for councillors opposed to a project that they already argue is detrimental to the city's image. 

When Clark talks publicly about where the waste will come from to feed the waterfront energy-from-waste plant, he emphasizes it's his "stated goal from the beginning" for it to come from Hamilton. 

But when Clark's company, Port Fuels and Materials Services, filed paperwork with the province, it defined its "service area" as the whole country: "The Facility will receive waste generated from within Canada."

Clark says the community should not be concerned about the formal permission request, and should focus on the actual business plan. 

"When you apply for the [Environmental Screening Report] you're applying for capability," he said. "What the reality of the business plan is is that you want to stay as local as you can possibly get."


Coun. Sam Merulla is skeptical, especially after the community went through a battle over an incinerator proposal from Liberty Energy—which also carried the potential of waste being imported into the city.

He said he won't believe Clark "unless they're willing to put that in writing where it's contractual and legal."

"I've always been concerned about being known as the capital of dumping of garbage," Merulla said. "That has always been a constant priority."

'More than enough in the pipeline' 

Clark said he's in the process of signing "feed supply agreements" with industrial companies that would show where the waste would come from for at least the first decade of the plant's existence. He's projected the plant will exist at least 25 years. 

I consider the likelihood and the probability to be near zero that we would have to go outside of the Hamilton area.- Robert Clark, COO, Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.

Beyond that first business plan 10- or 15-year term, Clark said Port Fuels "could put clauses in" that require the local waste source agreements to be renewed every so many years.

"We have more than enough in the pipeline to be able to treat Hamilton waste, local Hamilton waste and that is our intent," he said. "The successful processing of local Hamilton waste, that was my goal and that's what my stated goal is from the beginning."

Questioned about the difference between a "goal" and a promise, Clark said: 

"I consider the likelihood and the probability to be near zero that we would have to go outside of the Hamilton area." 

The Hamilton Port Authority, which would be the project's landlord, said treating the local waste nearby would be a "significant improvement on the status quo for how waste is handled in the industrial area," said spokeswoman Larissa Fenn.

The project would "jumpstart a clean tech cluster," create jobs and attract other business to the area, she said. 

"Currently, much of the industrial/commercial waste generated in north Hamilton is landfilled, either locally, or is trucked great distance for landfilling," Fenn said in a statement. "By treating non-hazardous industrial/commercial waste closer to its source, it will be kept out of landfill." 

Merulla said regardless of where the waste comes from, the plant should not be built. He is seconding a motion by Coun. Matthew Green this week that the city formally oppose the plant

"It ties exactly into what we're trying not to be any longer," Merulla said. "This is a for-profit endeavour at the expense of Hamilton's image and health and well-being and to that I say, 'You're not welcome.'"

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