Sherman neighbourhood residents push for answers on garbage plant

Sherman Hub residents put their questions about a proposed garbage gasification plant to the project's leaders Wednesday. Some weren't totally satisfied with the answers.
Bob Clark, project head for Port Fuels and Materials Services, gave an hour-long presentation about the proposed waste gasification plant. (Kelly Bennett/ CBC)

Residents expecting firm answers to some of the biggest questions about a potential waste-to-energy gasification plant proposed for Hamilton's industrial waterfront didn’t get many Wednesday at a Sherman neighbourhood meeting. 

But that didn’t stop some from trying to push project proponents on questions like how much of the waste will come from Hamilton and how much would be brought in from elsewhere. 

“I don’t want anything coming in from outside this area.- Project head Robert Clark

Project head Robert Clark said the Port Fuels and Materials Services plant is designed to source its waste locally and feed its energy back to local needs. The goal is to function within the boundaries of the Hamilton Port Authority, he said. 

“I don’t want anything coming in from outside this area,” Clark said to Bob Assadourian, council candidate for Ward 3, who asked for percentages during a question time. 

“We don’t need it. We don’t want it," Clark said.

"Signed, sealed, delivered?” Assadourian asked. 

“As well as I can do,” Clark replied. 

Assadourian appeared encouraged by the response. “We just don’t want to be known as the garbage capital city,” he said.

Port or city jurisdiction?

Later, Clark reiterated his contention that the Port has jurisdiction on the land, not the city. City staff have said the project would require a zoning change on the land. Clark said the “legal experts need to have a sit-down” on that jurisdiction issue. 

For Coun. Bob Morrow, who has said the city should formally oppose the project, the questions are about image and pollution. 

But, trying to get the meeting off to a balanced start, Morrow emphasized that the project’s proponents claim the plant would raise $500,000 per year in taxes.

“Which is not to be sneered at as we try to replace the industrial jobs and companies lost here and elsewhere, especially in our manufacturing city, traditionally so,” Morrow said.

Clark said the plant would provide between 30 and 50 full-time jobs, plus construction jobs while the plant is being built.

About 75 area residents attended Wednesday's meeting and many remained skeptical.

A few grew passionate during the public question time as they contemplated their neighbourhood's future as a place to raise families. Steve Calverley, chair of the Sherman Hub, emphasized the association's values on showing respect and room for differing opinions. 

Residents also heard from Environment Hamilton CEO Lynda Lukasik, who raised more questions she urged the community to be asking — about the technology, operations and land use and project's economic impacts. 

Airshed impacts

She said the province’s environmental review may give a go-ahead to a project even though its surrounding airshed is already compromised.

“While we may have a facility that would be well within the limits, I think what you need to think about is have we already passed the tipping point?” she said.

Clark said it’s too early to answer many of the questions raised Wednesday. But he committed to responding to all of them.

The setting for the meeting fit the questions about Hamilton’s identity. The warehouse at 270 Sherman Ave. North once held a textile factory. Now it’s been re-done to house artist studios and photography spaces.

The venue’s website claims it’s a symbol of “Hamilton’s industrial past renewed as Hamilton’s creative future.”