Lacombe City council has decided to wait.
During a regular council meeting on May 13, council voted to delay going ahead with the portion of the Solid Waste Roadmap regarding the purchase of an in-vessel compost system.
The decision came after administration recommended the City purchase a compost system to deal with stockpiles of organic waste that have been building up at the current compost site.
Director of Infrastructure Matthew Goudy, who presented the report, said that the current compost site was chosen as a temporary site and will not be able to accommodate further accumulation of grass clippings and other organic waste for much longer.
Goudy also said that the City’s current static pile method of composting has not proven very effective.
Furthermore, the current method produces unwanted leachates, has an odor and requires a large land space to operate.
Because of the growing need for more space, administration recommended that although council had previously voted to delay the Solid Waste Roadmap until more feedback could be garnered from the public, council should go ahead with this portion of the Roadmap and purchase the recommended HotRot compost system to deal with the large stockpiles of organic waste and begin turning it into useable compost.
While most City councillors agreed that the recommended HotRot model was the direction Lacombe wanted to go in with its compost program, some of them expressed concern about making such a crucial decision before a final say had been made about the rest of the Solid Waste Roadmap.
“We made a commitment to the public to engage in some public consultation for the Solid Waste Roadmap,” said Councillor Grant Creasey. “I don’t know how we can pick and choose portions of it.”
Councillor Reuben Konnick said that he felt the purchase of a new compost system was something that definitely needed to be done, but should be shelved along with the rest of the Solid Waste Roadmap until the City can receive more feedback from the community.
He also said that there are some unanswered questions surrounding the HotRot system and that more research needs to be done.
Councillor Ian Foster disagreed.
“We’re in a position where we need to do this sooner rather than later,” said Foster. He added that he felt if something was not done soon, compostable materials will begin turning up in landfills as general waste.
He also expressed his confusion as to why council would delay this decision when most of them were in favour of purchasing a HotRot system.
“Most of us agree this is the machine we want, I’m not sure why we would delay,” said Foster.
Councillor Wayne Rempel also felt there was no need to delay the decision.
He said the complaints he had heard from citizens were regarding rollout bins, not the City’s approach to composting.
“Up until now nobody cared about this, they cared about the bins,” said Rempel.
Councillor Outi Kite said that regardless of where the majority of citizen complaints lay, the purpose of council revisiting the Solid Waste Roadmap was to inform the public about all, not some, components of the Roadmap and therefore the decision should wait until the fall when the public engagement strategies will be completed.
Several councillors also felt that it was pointless to make a decision at this point on the HotRot composter as, if purchased, the unit still would not be operational until the fall and compost stockpiling would still need to continue in the meantime.
This was of special concern to some members of council as the unit would not operate in temperature below -15C, meaning it would not be able to produce useable compost for most of the winter.
Creasey agreed with Konnick that more research needed to be done on the HotRot system, including a comparison of other compost systems as well.
He said that he had spoken with the operators of a HotRot system in Halifax, currently the only one in Canada and was told that the operation of the system is quite labour intensive, requiring workers to operate it seven days a week, although not necessarily 24 hours a day for every day of the week.
Goudy said that was contrary to what he had been told by the manufacturers of the product but did admit that the proposed compost system did not come without any risk.
As new technology (Lacombe would be home to only the second HotRot model in question were the City to purchase one), there are always risks involved, he said.
“It has never been administration’s opinion that this is going to be a risk-free venture,” Goudy said.