Increase in Edmonton garbage fees part of a green levy on homeowners

uploaded-by-brian-tucker-email-btuckeredmontonjournalWaste management officials hope to hit their target of diverting 90 per cent of residential garbage away from landfills by 2018, or 2020 in the worst-case scenario, the city’s utility committee was told Thursday during budget discussions. Currently, about half the garbage is trucked and dumped in a landfill near Ryley, about 85 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

The big change this year comes from the waste to biofuels facility, which was finally commissioned in 2015 and should be up to 80 per cent capacity by the middle of next year, said Leo Girard, head of waste management. Homeowners will pay an extra 30 cents a month to process non-recyclables so they can be delivered to Enerkem, a third party hoping to sell the methane that will be produced.

The city also diverts waste and toxic material from the landfill by getting homeowners to drop them off at Eco Stations and has a separation plant for recyclable material.

To finally get to that 90-per-cent diversion of garbage, the city also needs to increase its composing capacity. It’s trying to convince more people to leave grass clippings on their lawns, It plans to build by 2017 a new anaerobic digester, a biological process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material. One of the end products is biogas, which can be used to generate electricity and heat. That will cost homeowners an additional 60 cents a month next year.

“Part of the promise and the story is the environmental outcomes,” said Coun. Michael Walters, upset that Edmonton was behind on its promise to meet the 90-per-cent target.

Waste management originally estimated it could get there by 2014, before the biofuels facility ran into challenges. “Maybe a corporate culture of over promising?” he asked.

Girard said delays aren’t surprising for a facility this new and technically complex. “This is the first of its kind of this magnitude.”

The utility committee also debated the drainage budget. Both must still be approved by council.

Homeowners will pay $12 a year more for sewers and stormwater pipes, mostly to hire staff to do the inspections and engineering necessary to deal with flooding risks and odour complaints. The utility is asking for 35 new full-time staff members for 2016, including a team of five to inspect deep trunk lines and other infrastructure.

For the storm sewers, by the end of 2015, nine per cent of mature neighbourhoods should be protected against a one-in-100-year storm. Previous estimates have said protecting every neighbourhood could cost $2.4 billion in total. That money isn’t in the budget yet.

The sewer pipes also need help. “Most of our infrastructure is getting to that point where its reached its half-life,” chief financial officer Todd Burge said.

The underground pipes, worth $16 billion, are actually Edmonton’s biggest asset, Mayor Don Iveson said.

“It’s bigger than roads and we spend a lot of time talking about roads,” he said, responding to criticism over the crumbling West Jasper Place sewer trunk line.

“What I want to assure the public is that we have been better stewards of our sewers than we have been of our roads over time. There are some potholes in our sewer system that we need to work on — a sewer trunk link failure would be like a bridge failure — and we take that very seriously. … We are leading edge and I wouldn’t want citizens to have a different perspective.”

2016 sewer and garbage budgets by the numbers

360,000 — single and multi-family homes with garbage pickup

3,400 kilometres — sewer pipes draining into the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant

$1.6 million — budget to deal with increasing sewer gas odour complaints

$1 million — budget to reduce erosion of Edmonton’s creeks

$16.6 million — cost to dispose of Edmontonians’ dried biosolids, or poop. It gets sanitized and spread on farm land.

$84,464 — cost to hire one additional curbside garbage collector

$43 — monthly fee for garbage collection for a single family home

$28 — monthly fee for garbage collection for an apartment dweller

$187 million — total waste management budget

$319 million — total drainage budget

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