The tireless movers and shakers behind the incinerator decision
Posted June 2016
Frank and Allen met back in 2005 at the Highland Creek Treatment Plant Neighbourhood Liaison Committee. This committee was set up as a joint effort between city, plant staff and the local community to discuss matters of mutual interest. Frank is a retired engineer who worked with a firm that built sewage and water treatment facilities. He was an ideal addition to the liaison committee as the incinerator issue came up. He became the co-chair.
Allen, who has lived just up the road from the plant for 39 years, describes Frank’s arrival on the committee: “Those of us who lived here a long time looked up in the sky one day and Frank dropped in - 11 years ago.” Frank is
Lawn signs were part of the campaign
equally admiring of Allen’s abilities: “You’ve never met anybody that’s so detailed about every contact he made, every person he spoke to, who the councillors’ assistants are, what their families do, he knows everything about everybody.” Frank says they’re a tag team and it’s obvious they worked well together on this issue.
They knew in 2010 that a vote was coming to city council that would decide how to replace Highland Creek’s aging incinerators. City staff recommended an incinerator upgrade, as it had in 2004. It seemed like a done deal until the vote came up. Council ignored the recommendation and voted to implement beneficial use (trucking the biosolids out to be spread on farmers’ fields).
The community was shocked with that decision and Frank and Allen sprang into action by writing letters, meeting with politicians and making presentations. One of the biggest issues was the impact of trucking the sewage sludge several times a day through seven kilometres of community streets before reaching the highway.
In 2011, there was a new council at city hall and the motion was reopened at Councillor Ron Moeser’s request. Incineration was approved by the Works Committee, but council again voted against it and chose to go with beneficial use. “After the vote in 2010, we started to get edgy,” Frank said. “Then in 2011 when we lost a second time, we really started to get aggravated.” That’s when they moved into high gear in their opposition program and had signs made up that read, “Say NO to city council on trucking of toxic sewage sludge.” This time the five area community associations were onside and the liaison committee, along with the CCRA, circulated petitions. They presented 1,876 petitions to the city in September 2013 in support of the incinerator option.
They were fortunate to have Margarett Best onside as well. As MPP for Guildwood at the time, she helped set up a meeting with the Environment Ministry in 2012. The ministry cautioned the city that it might have trouble getting its choice approved because of strong community opposition. City staff decided to do a new environmental assessment for Highland Creek, which city council agreed to in 2013.
The assessment started in April 2014 and it ran until January 2016. Public meetings were held to present the three short-listed options for Highland Creek: a fluidized bed incinerator; trucking biosolids off-site; or pelletizing the sewage and then trucking it off-site. There was little difference between the three options regarding environmental and health impacts but the incinerator was best for cost and had minimum community impact.
Then Frank and Allen started the rounds of city hall again. “We were advised by one of the wise old councillors, don’t talk to the ones you know will vote yes, don’t waste your time on the ones you know will vote no, just spend your time talking to the ones that are in the middle,” Frank said. So that’s what they did.
This time the 30-12 vote at city council went in their favour. Frank and Allen were surprised. They had expected it to be much closer.
After the vote, Ron Moeser sent a message thanking Frank and Allen for “their passion and persistence” on the matter. Jeff Forsyth, Past President of the CCRA, said that thanks to their “determination and perseverance, the city has finally approved the fluidized incineration method.”
But Frank and Allen are quick to praise others for their help. “John Tory was a star,” said Frank. Allen noted that Tory was consistent on the issue from the time he campaigned to be mayor until now.
Both thanked Barbara McElgunn, a nurse on the liaison committee who is interested in the impacts of toxics on human development and was strongly against the spread of sewage on agricultural land. McElgunn also took part in the meeting at the environment ministry in March 2012. Allen credited MPP Tracy MacCharles as well for writing letters to the eight councillors deemed to be on the fence.
But no matter how many people played a role in helping to get the incinerator option passed by city council, it’s Frank Moir and Allen Elias we should be thanking most for the tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work they did on this issue on behalf of the community.