A meeting in Highland Creek this month is a first glimpse at what the City of Toronto plans to do with the 100 tonnes of biosolids the local sewage plant produces each day.
For years, residents living near the Highland Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Beechgrove Drive in southeastern Scarborough have called for replacing its aging incinerators with more modern sludge-burners.
After weighing that option, in 2011, Toronto council chose “beneficial use” instead, which would see the plant’s dried sludge trucked away and, hopefully, sold as fertilizer.
Supporters of incineration convinced the province a new environmental assessment was needed and, on Thursday, Nov. 19, the city will reveal its preferred choice.
“I’m not at all complacent,” Allen Elias, a leading supporter of incineration and a member for 20 years of a neighbourhood liaison committee for the plant.
“The preferred solution (incineration) was highjacked twice” when the issue had reached council, so people who want new fluidized bed incinerators should go to the meeting, which is at the Royal Canadian Legion branch on Lawson Road, Elias said.
There is a third choice under study this time, building a facility by the plant to reduce its sludge to pellets, and then trucking those pellets away.
Effects on health from the three possible solutions are interchangeable, but social and economic aspects “are way in favour of building a fluidized bed,” Elias argued last week.
He brought his opinions to Toronto’s Board of Health when it visited Etobicoke last week, stressing the risk to residents in plans to truck sludge through the community “is of great concern.”
The board, for its part, said health effects from the three solutions “are very small” and added there are no “appreciable differences” in risk between them.
Each would significantly cut air pollution compared to the plant’s existing 38-year-old incinerators, but while the new incinerators are “anticipated to result in the highest releases of air pollutants,” hauling away the biosolids or pellets will increase risks related to “safety, odour and noise,” the board found.
Each solution requires haulage of some material. Ash from incinerated sludge might be removed each week, while pellets require a truck or two daily and sludge needs an estimated five a day.
The Health Impact Assessment by the board also supported using a route, which uses Port Union Road to reach Hwy. 401 to haul materials from the plant.
In a letter, Ron Wootton, president of a ratepayer group in the Coronation area, said the health study had managed to “discredit and falsify the conclusion” incineration generates more air pollution by only considering the journey of sludge to Hwy. 401, instead of counting pollutants it generates when spread on land.
The Nov. 19 meeting starts as an open house at 6 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m.