Cumberland sawmill wins contract to handle infested ash trees

The city has enlisted a sawmill in Cumberland to try and salvage some of the wood from trees that were infested with the emerald ash borer.
Luc Laplante left his job as a paramedic to operate a sawmill with his family in Cumberland. Kate Porter/CBC

The city has enlisted a sawmill in Cumberland to try and salvage some of the wood from trees that were infested with the emerald ash borer.

Ottawa has been looking for ways of disposing the thousands of trees it has had to cut down this year to stop the spread of the invasive beetle.

On Monday it announced it has contracted Ottawa Cedar Lumber to re-use that wood instead of letting it sit at the landfill.

The company's owner, Luc Laplante, is a former paramedic who started the sawmill eight years ago and now employs six people at his farm on Dunning Road in Cumberland.

His company cuts lumber, but also sends wood chips to sugar bushes and turns leftover cedar into mulch.

"So no, there's no waste at all. I despise wasting wood," said Laplante.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has strict guidelines for how wood must be treated after it has been infected by the ash borer. Among its requirements is that the wood be ground or chipped to create chips less than 2.5 cm in any two directions.

Secondary processing to produce wood by-products such as paper, fibre board, or oriented strand board must also render the articles free from the emerald ash borer, according to the CFIA.

Laplante said he expects two thousand tonnes of ash wood from the city a year — and plans to use all of it. He said he'll turn what he can into boards, and smaller pieces will become wood pellets for heating, and bark will be sent to co-generation plants in the Outaouais.

"Instead of putting it into the landfill, it was kind of a win-win that the wood would be turned into something instead of just being buried," said Laplante.

"So this way the wood that came from the city is going to go back where it started," he said.

Councillor Maria McRae said diverting wood to the sawmill could reduce the tipping fees the city pays at the landfill for waste wood by 30 per cent.

Laplante said he isn't worried about the spread of the beetle from his Cumberland site and said if the wood is ground up quickly, the pest is eradicated.