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Packed house in Shawville for incinerator town hall meeting

by Charles Dickson
Apr. 3, 2024
An estimated 150 people attended a meeting in Shawville last Wednesday evening for a presentation by MRC Pontiac of the initial business plan for the proposed garbage incinerator project.
The meeting, held in the United Church hall, was the third in a series of five such sessions being convened across the county and hosted by Allumette Island mayor Corey Spence.
Spence’s presentation followed the same formula used in the previous meetings beginning with several videos on the differences between a linear economy and a circular economy and the virtues of employing a zero-waste strategy to reduce the volume of municipal garbage produced. This was followed by the projection of a series of slides of text taken from the initial business plan, with a few key points read from each.
As in the previous two presentations, Spence took the audience through various elements of the report, including charts comparing the long-run costs of a 400,000-ton incinerator versus a 400,000-ton landfill option that showed how the costs over time favoured the incinerator option.
The use of a landfill site with a 400,000-ton (per year) capacity as the basis of comparison with the proposed incinerator was questioned by a member of the audience on the grounds that, while a 400,000-ton landfill might be relevant to Ottawa’s needs, it is not an option for the Pontiac. Spence explained that it was necessary in the development of the business case to make an “apples to apples” comparison.
Others questioned the use of the 400,000-ton figure, as it is now known that the City of Ottawa, assumed to be a major source of garbage for the proposed incinerator, has significantly reduced its municipal waste volumes through programs such as recycling and composting. It was also mentioned that Ottawa is now looking at a possible extension of its Trail Road landfill facility to 2048, which could postpone Ottawa’s need to find another disposal solution by another 24 years.
“We’re in an exploration stage here,” Spence responded. “We’ve got this initial business case, it started long ago, and of course things have changed over time. We did not stop it halfway through, we just continued with the numbers that were given to them [Deloite and Ramboll] in the beginning, and by no means or any stretch of the imagination are all these numbers in concrete,” he said.
In answering questions about the project’s financial costs and benefits to the Pontiac, Warden Toller said that, as far as the costs of building the facility are concerned, “We’re not asking for anything from municipal taxes.” She said that 25 per cent of the needed funds would come from private investors, adding that Renfrew bussinessman Derek McGrimmon had already offered $50 million, and that the other 75 per cent would come from various federal and provincial funds.
The warden said the facility would likely be paid off within nine or 10 years, at which point it would generate a revenue stream of a few million dollars composed of money from tipping fees, the sale of electricity to Hydro Quebec and of the sale of ferrous and non-ferrous metals recovered from the incinerator ash. She said this revenue would be shared with all the municipalities that use the facility in proportion with the volume of garbage they provide.
“If Ottawa was contributing, then it makes sense that they are paying the most to bring their waste, they would benefit from the revenue the most,” the warden said.
A member of the audience asked, “Why are we bringing all this garbage into the Pontiac when we are only a slight percentage of it?” noting that composting could reduce our 5,000 tons of waste by 40 per cent.
“And since we have such a small portion of what we are contributing to the waste, how is the Pontiac going to benefit from this at all?” she asked, referring to the warden’s description of how the revenue would be shared among municipalities in proportion to the amount of garbage they have brought to the incinerator.
“I don’t think of this as garbage, I think of it as a resource,” the warden responded, elaborating that the recycling can be sold, organic matter can be turned into compost, and the rest can be transformed into electricity. She said there would be a saving of $1.7 million by not trucking garbage to Lachute and that the facility would employ 50 people.

“We will do our best to ensure that people from Pontiac are hired before anyone else. And to build the facility, which takes three years, employs 800 people. So, there’s lots of benefit but, most of all, I think we’ll be able to say we’re looking after all our waste here and not shipping it off somewhere else,” the warden said.
Another audience member said that if our 5,000 tons of garbage could be reduced by composting and recycling to under 2,000 tons, why are we considering a project that would produce 100,000 tons of ash.
The warden responded that the figure of 100,000 tons of ash (which would correspond to 25 per cent of a volume of 400,000 tons of garbage burned), had come from Dr. Paul Connett, one of the participants in a public information session convened by Citizens of the Pontiac in early March. The warden said that figures provided by Ramboll were in the range of 15 to 18 per cent (which would translate to 60,000 to 72,000 tons of ash from burning 400,000 tons of garbage). She also mentioned that the MRC is considering a smaller incinerator, perhaps as small as a 15,000-ton capacity (at a rate of 15 to 18 per cent ash production, a 15,000-ton incinerator would produce between 2,250 and 2,700 tons of ash).
Concerns were also raised about emissions and noise levels from the 30 to 40 large trucks expected to be traveling day and night through the Pontiac, to which the warden responded that hopefully the trucks would all be electric by that point.
In response to a question about who would be responsible to pay for any environmental problems arising from this project, Spence said it would be the private operating company which must put funds aside for this purpose.
“If this is the best presentation the MRC can do, shame on you,” said Ron Hodgins, a farmer in Clarendon.
“You have promoted this area as a tourist attraction – agro-tourism, the PPJ, our streams, our rivers, our lakes, our cottages, the Shawville Fair, July 1 – everything we do in the Pontiac to get people to come to this area to spend money. What has changed? Why do you want this area to be known as the megadump of the Pontiac? I don’t understand,” Hodgins said.
Spence responded, “Why would any of that stop, what you just said? We’re still going to promote this as tourism, we want more and more people to come.”
Judy Spence, speaking for a group called Citizens of the Pontiac, demanded that the question of whether to proceed with this project be put to a public referendum.
When the audience was asked how many people oppose the incinerator project, almost everyone in the room put a hand up.
The warden told the audience that one of the recommendations of the initial business case produced for the MRC by Deloitte and Ramboll was that a second, more in-depth business case be developed, which she said was estimated to cost between $250,000 and $300,000 and would take four to six months to produce.
After the meeting, THE EQUITY asked the warden how she plans to proceed with the recommendation for a second business case and whether mayors would have to vote on it.
“When the presentation was given to us, the consensus at the table was that we were pleased with the work that had been done, and so we accept their recommendations,” she said.
“We accept the business plan and we understand that there’s a need for more study. What remains to be seen is where will the funding come from,” she said.
“We’d have to retender it because it’s a $250,000 study,” she said.
In a follow-up text message sent on Monday of this week, the warden said, “First we will identify the funding source. When that is determined, we will vote to open the tender.”
The fourth public information session is being held in Campbell’s Bay on the evening of Apr. 9. The fifth and final meeting is scheduled to take place in Otter Lake on the evening of Apr. 10.


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