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Incinerator again dominates questions at meeting of mayors

by Charles Dickson
Campbell’s Bay
Apr. 22, 2024
At the April meeting of Pontiac County mayors, held last Wednesday at the MRC office in Campbell’s Bay, questions about the proposed garbage incinerator project were again the primary focus of the public participation section of the agenda.
Christine Armitage led off with her inquiry about the fate of a document known as the initial business case for the energy-from-waste (EFW) project. Produced by two consulting firms, Deloitte and Ramboll, it lays out their analysis and recommendations for how the project could be structured.
The MRC commissioned the study last November under a sole-source contract at a cost of approximately $120,000 and received the report in late January. Citizens engaged in the incinerator debate argued that since the document was paid for with public funds, it should be released to the public.
Regardless, the warden and mayors withheld the document through a series of public presentations of its findings that they convened over recent weeks. Their explanations for why it was not being released included that it was very technical, Pontiacers wouldn’t get much out of it, and no one would come to hear the MRC’s presentation of the report if they could read it for themselves.
They did commit, however, to publishing the document after the series of presentations had concluded. Though it was finally posted on the MRC website on the afternoon of Thursday, Apr. 11, it had disappeared by Friday morning, which led to Christine Armitage’s question at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Council of Mayors.
“Late last Thursday, the Deloitte and Ramboll EFW documents were briefly posted, then the links were subsequently removed the following morning. Can you explain why?” Armitage asked.
“The reason for that was that it came to our attention that, according to the contract with the consultants, that there was some confidential information,” Warden Toller explained.
“We just wanted to make sure that there is no possible violation of the contract,” she said. “And so, at this point, what we are doing is we are working with the consultants, and we do hope to be in a position to be able to repost it.”
“But it is very fortunate that, in the time period that it was posted, that many groups received it and posted it on their website,” the warden added.
In a statement issued on Monday of last week (Apr. 15), the MRC alluded to an apparent disagreement between MRC Pontiac and Deloitte over a detail of the contract governing publication of the document.
“We were advised Friday morning by the parties involved that releasing these documents violated a third-party confidentiality clause that was written into the contract to commission the analysis. In our opinion, these documents are in the public domain since they were paid for with taxpayers’ money. That said, we have for the time being removed the links to the documents while we carry out legal verifications concerning the publication of these documents,” the MRC statement read.
On Monday of this week (April 22), the MRC provided THE EQUITY with the text of the confidentiality clause:
Limitation on use and distribution. Except as otherwise agreed in writing, all services in connection with this engagement shall be solely for the Company’s internal purposes and use, and this engagement does not create privity between Deloitte and any person or party other than the Company (“third party”). This engagement is not intended for the express or implied benefit of any third party. No third party is entitled to rely, in any manner or for any purpose, on the advice, opinions, reports, or Services of Deloitte. The Company further agrees that the advice, opinions, reports or other materials prepared or provided by Deloitte are to be used only for the purpose contemplated by the Engagement Letter and shall not be distributed to any third party without the prior written consent of Deloitte Canada.

At last week’s meeting of mayors, Armitage also asked about plans regarding one of the recommendations of the report, the proposal to conduct a second business case that would provide information not covered in the initial report.
“Some mayors have stated to their residents at council meetings that they require more information to make a decision,” Armitage said. “You’ve said it would be borne by grants or other partners that seem to be ill-defined . . . ”
“I think we’ve said that we’re going to secure the funding, and the funding will not come from MRC Pontiac,” the warden replied.
“On what basis would this council decide on moving forward with a second business plan?” Armitage asked.
“At this point, Deloitte and Ramboll gave a list of the things that were not included in the initial business case,” the warden responded. “And we all feel that more information is important. We don’t have enough information right now. A majority of people at this table believe we don’t have enough information.”
“And we’re certainly hearing this from the public because, even with our town hall meetings, there were a total of 350 people in attendance [THE EQUITY estimates there were more than 500] . . . and we have a population of 14,700 so we need to find a way to get information to every household, and we’re working on that plan,” Toller said.
“Even with adopting zero waste – which is an excellent aspiration, we all think it’s a good idea, but it will take a long time – and we’re concerned that after the recycling and composting, we’ll have about 50 per cent of our waste that will need to go someplace other than landfills, because landfills may not stay open and we do not support landfill,” the warden said.
Asked by Armitage whether a second business case would be based on 400,000 tons of garbage or a smaller volume of 70,000 tons, the warden replied that it is too early to say.
Pat Shank, a resident of Calumet Island, picked up on the theme of obtaining more information and offered to help.
“You mentioned you need more information . . . what if I was able to, on these screens, to get real professionals that can talk to you about common sense and how zero waste and a circular economy really works, without an incinerator on the Ottawa River which you all were to protect?” he asked, suggesting the name of Dr. Paul Connett, a long-standing critic of garbage incineration who came to local notoriety through a video that has circulated on social media.
“We’ve already heard from Dr. Connett,” the warden responded. “We actually have been very fortunate over the last six months to have the global lead in the world on technologies, and this person has been directly involved with energy from waste.”
When Shank continued to speak, the warden thanked him and repeatedly asked him to sit down or she would have to ask him to leave the meeting.
“And zero waste, Pat, is a great idea and we’re going to look into it . . . but it’s not realistic, and it won’t just cause 50 per cent of our waste to disappear. And so, that’s our answer at this point, but we need more information,” she said as she moved on to the next person with a question.

Warden draws distinction between mayors’ role at municiple vs county tables

“Reading the paper every week, and I’m wondering why a few councils, especially Shawville, are not bringing this [incinerator issue] to a vote with their council members, and I’m wondering why,” an unidentified man asked.
“It’s the decision of each council, it’s not something that is decided here at the MRC,” the warden responded. “The mayors around this table are part of a regional council, and then they also have another responsibility in their own municipality. What happens in their municipality, we don’t get involved in,” she said.
Audience member Sylvie Landriault commented that it was unacceptable to see 20 plastic water bottles distributed around the council table.
“An excellent point,” the warden replied. “I agree with you. Tonight, we’ve used these; we won’t use these again, to set an example,” she said.
Sylvie Landriault also asked if it would be possible to have the meeting agenda posted online ahead of the meeting, to which the warden and several members of the staff responded, saying they would try to post it on Mondays, 72 hours ahead of the meeting.

Outspoken critic of the incinerator project, Linda Davis, challenged the warden on comments she had made at the MRC’s presentation in Campbell’s Bay the previous week. A woman in the audience at that meeting said she had been an expert involved in the operation of Ottawa’s failed Plasco project to convert municipal waste into electricity that would be sold to the public grid. The woman argued that there were features of the Plasco technology that bore certain similarities to the incinerator proposed for the Pontiac that should be of concern.
In response, the warden made reference to the person leading the Ramboll team working on the Pontiac incinerator project.
“We have the global lead from Ramboll, her name is Bettina Kamuk. She sat at the meeting that Mr. Bryden pitched Ottawa before the facility was built,” the warden said. “She stood up and she said, ‘I have to tell you right now, this technology will not work.’ And she was the only one that was correct,” Toller said.
“So, I am really sorry that that has always been described as a real fiasco to us. We would never want to have a Plasco in the Pontiac,” the warden said in the Campbell’s Bay meeting.
In her intervention at last week’s mayors’ meeting, Davis asked the warden whether she had been suggesting that Rod Bryden was prepared not to listen to an engineer who said his multi-million-dollar project wouldn’t work.
“You’re suggesting that this engineer gave advice in a room full of men, and they didn’t listen to her – are you standing by that comment or not?” Davis asked.
“I wasn’t there, but I have it on good authority that it was Bettina Kamuk, and no one else in the room that said it would not work. So, I was impressed with that story because it showed me that she knows what she is talking about,” the warden replied.
Pressed by Davis as to whether she was violating Kamuk’s confidentiality, the warden replied that she was not violating anything, with which she concluded the public question period.

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