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bio-smell-fullTo all residents of Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth,

This past Friday evening, friends of ours from southern Ontario rolled up our driveway with their camper. Hoping to begin a stress-free weekend with friends, it took me two seconds to realize this would not be. What better way to be greeted to beautiful Georgian Bluffs than the foul odor wafting from that failed experiment on the sideroad (the bio-digester) that our councils (Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth) continue to blindly throw our tax dollars at.

This was to be my first complaint of the year to the operations department in regards to odor issues but I believe this is simply due more to good luck and not that the odour issues have been effectively controlled. This is the reason for this letter to the editor, to clarify a "myth."
I was informed several months ago about the new "biogrid" web page which was to contain information both "good and bad" about the biodigester. This was the message that was given to concerned ratepayers and people who had been registering complaints on a regular basis. The web page would contain all information and would be presented in a factual manner.
When I read through it, I was shocked, angry, frustrated - pick any word you like here. The education section of this web page is like a complete slap in the face to me, my family, my neighbors and anyone else who has registered concerns or complaints about this failed experiment. And yet here it is.

"Myth 1: Anaerobic digesters have odours.
Fact 1: Anaerobic digesters are air tight tanks. All of the gases produced do not escape the digester. So in this process when the gas produces clean electricity, it has no odour."

So you are telling me that all the complaints that have been registered with the Joint boards, the Operations managers, both mayors, the MOE and any other elected officials since May 2012 are not simply valid? We are just making this all up? Is it all in our heads? Am I lying?
Why then do odour issues keep showing up in the committee meeting minutes posted on the same web site? I refer to the July meeting minutes, specifically section 2.6 of the Veolia monthly report of April 2014, which states: "Various odor complaints have been received throughout the month of April by the Township and Ministry of the Environment." In fact keep going back in the monthly minutes of meetings and tell me there isn't an odour problem at this facility.

"Myth 2: Anaerobic digesters cost too much.
Fact 2: The end product of electricity that is produced does initially cost a little more than other hydro alternatives. But the environmental benefits that are considered when using an Anaerobic Digester are much greater. These benefits being; reduced greenhouse gas emissions, diversion from landfills, increased water and food safety, reduced farm odour, and renewable electricity. All of these being the most economical, and environmentally friendly and sustainable energy that is available today."

We (concerned neighbors) were told by the design engineer at a meeting in 2009 at the Georgian Bluffs office, that expanding the capacity of this facility to generate more revenue would start to have a negative effect on the environment due to the increased carbon footprint of additional trucking of material (greenhouse gas emissions). Have you seen the trucks used to clean out this facility? Not the most environmentally friendly vehicles on the road, in my view.

And does it make sense to draw "product" from outside our townships for processing? I have said before and will say again. This is no longer about what is good for the environment, when we are trucking material from outside of our own townships. I don't believe it has ever been about the environment.

Farm odour? I was raised on a farm and have lived in a farming community all my life. I know what to expect from the spreading of waste on the fields. However I do not believe that it is simply acceptable to spread this type of waste on fields. I refer you to another letter to the editor in this same publication dated July 20, 2014, on this very topic.

( http://www.owensoundhub.org/letters/285-open-letter-to-chatsworth-mayor-bob-pringle-taxpayers-need-unvarnished-truth-about-bio-digester.html)

Cost? At that same 2009 meeting we were told that the end product would be 96 per cent dry material that could "be bagged and sold as compost" In no time at all it became apparent that the "recipe" to achieve this dry material was going to be too expensive (how was this calculation missed in the planning stages and what numbers were used?) and a more expensive alternative with additional large wet storage tanks would be necessary. Now the end product would be extremely wet and require disposal by tanker trucks.

"Myth 3: Anaerobic digesters take out the nutrients needed for farmer's fields.
Fact 3: Anaerobic Digesters produce energy by breaking down material in a process to create biogas. All materials that are being broken down convert into nutrients that are more absorbable. So the outcome is that anaerobic digesters actually increase the richness of the nutrients that is available to farmers. And in the end all of this matter is being broken down so the odours are even less on farmer fields then other methods of nutrients being used."


"Myth 4: Digesters are too big for farms to contain on their land
Fact 4: Anaerobic Digesters are sized to fit different farms that they would be placed on. Digesters are actually smaller than most buildings overall. They do not take up a lot of space. They are smaller than a barn, and can also have a digester tank that can be partially underground."

It is about here that I begin to question if this information wasn't just cut and pasted from an American web site that has much different guidelines. Why are you discussing size and farms?

The only purpose that I can see for these two points to be included on the web page is to simply misdirect the reader from the fact that this is an industrial facility. It is not a farming operation in any way shape or form and never has been.

"Myth 5: Digesters just don't work in general
Fact 5: Anaerobic Digesters are very efficient. In fact the process of biogas being used as electricity has been around for many years. Today as well there are thousands of digesters producing renewable and clean electricity around the world."

Look at the operating history of this facility and the repairs that have been necessary in the first two years of operation and tell me this is efficient. The sitting council of the day was sold a bill of goods, in my view. To keep telling me it's the "the right thing to do" is unacceptable any more.

And if anyone from the Ministry of the Environment is reading this, can you tell me why there have been no fines levied against this facility for odour violations? I know that several other institutions in Ontario have indeed received hefty fines for odour issues and in fact I personally know some that have been shut down from operating until the odour problem was resolved, yet this one seems to escape any penalty. Why does the township have the right to interfere with my enjoyment of my property and not be penalized?

And finally, to all Georgian Bluffs or Chatsworth ratepayers that are reading this – ask your councillors what measures were taken in their due diligence during the planning of this bio-digester. Did any of them ever stop by a neighbor of an operating facility (were they the same design) to see if there are any issues such as odour or noise? Not the operations manager or the engineer trying to sell it, but the actual people who live beside it every day and every night.

When I asked that question, I was told no.

This is a failed experiment and it should be closed down.

Randy Taylor


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