Itâ€™s a topic that has caused much debate among the residents of the region.
And while many were hopeful the project would get the stamp of disapproval, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) has given the proposed Energy-from-Waste (EFW) facility a green light.
The minister granted the projectâ€™s Environmental Assessment (EA) approval early in November but the decision was just announced late last week.
This means the project can move ahead, be built and operated, but the approval comes with strict conditions, the MOE says.
The facility must operate under stringent air emission requirements that are among the toughest in the world, its emissions will be monitored and reported and there will be daily inspections of the site. A public advisory committee must also be formed so that the community can continue to be involved in the project, the province says.
In addition, the Ontario government demands waste only be accepted if it canâ€™t be recycled.
â€œOur priority is to ensure that public health and the environment are fully protected. That’s why we put tough conditions in place to protect air quality,â€ says John Wilkinson,
minister of the environment.
But Clarington Mayor-Elect Adrian Foster says the community is still not buying into the idea.
â€œThe community is clearly not happy with the concept of an incinerator,â€ he says.
â€œIâ€™m not surprised at all with the approval of the MOE. But I am very disappointed about the timing.â€
Foster says with a new regional council set to start meetings Dec. 8; the issue deserves to be debated among the new council.
Regional Chair Roger Anderson was granted approval by outgoing councillors to sign off on the agreement with Covanta, the company slated to build the facility, should he choose to, Foster says.
â€œWeâ€™re in never-never land on that. It sure puts Roger Anderson in an awkward spot,â€ he adds.
If Chair Anderson signs the agreement with Covanta, and regional council decides to fight against the project, it could cost big dollars, Foster explains.
â€œThe cost to the taxpayers could be significant,â€ he says, adding 13 newly elected councillors have made their stance in opposition of the EFW public.
Durham began seeking an effective way to handle residual waste back in 2004, which led to launching the Durham Residual Waste Disposal Study EA.
But in May 2005 Durham made the decision to form a partnership with the Municipality of York. The partnership would see Yorkâ€™s garbage burned in the Durham facility, which was ultimately proposed for Courtice. The consultantâ€™s recommendation was a 12-hectare site located between Courtice Road and Osbourne Road.
York and Durham councils passed approval on the EA back in June 2009. It was late-July 2009 that the EA was submitted to the MOE.
â€œAfter carefully examining the options, consulting with the public and various experts, we determined an energy-from-waste (EFW) facility was the most reasonable method to deal with residual waste. With the approval of the EA, the province has recognized the need for this facility and that we are committed to the protection of human health and the environment. The EA acknowledges that our EFW is a viable option for the future of waste management in Ontario,â€ says Chair Anderson.
The facility will be capable of processing up to 140,000 tonnes of post-diversion residual wasteâ€”the waste that remains after composting and recycling.
It uses a thermal mass burn technology, which means Durhamâ€™s solid waste will be fed into a furnace where it is burned at very high temperatures.
The ash is then shipped to a landfill or reused in product manufacturing, the region says.
The EFW process also includes production of high-pressure steam, which is fed through a turbine generator to produce electricity and/or hot water energy that can be used for district heating in the future.
Operating at 140,000 tonnes a year, enough power would be generated to power 10,000 homes, while the district heating produced could heat the equivalent of 2,200 homes, the region explains.
Construction on the facility is â€œanticipated for 2011 with a target operation date of 2014,â€ the region says in a release.
â€œFor too long, we have trucked our garbage hundreds of kilometres to someone elseâ€™s backyard. This is not a sustainable solution,â€ says Commissioner of Works Cliff Curtis. â€œThis energy-from-waste facility will release less greenhouse gas over its lifetime than our current long-haul disposal practice. The MOE has imposed extremely strict limits on our air emissions, but we can achieve them. This demonstrates the EFW facility will operate in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.â€
But residents in Courtice and Oshawa are not entirely convinced.
â€œThere are three main concerns. One is lack of meaningful consultationâ€¦they (residents) are concerned about the health and environmental concernsâ€¦and lastly the business case is very scary,â€ adds Foster.