Ottawa’s ‘green-bin’ program and Orgaworld: an open letter to journalist Rob Snow

Hi Mr. Snow!

There are some very important questions we need to learn about Orgaworld – how they got awarded the contract and what type of due diligence was or was not done leading up to this.  Forensic audit should only be one step in this process.

I wonder if there is a clause in the Ottawa ‘deal’ with Orgaworld which would permit us to cancel the contract without penalties (to us):

  • IF Orgaworld fails to produce ‘usable’ compost?
As per The Toronto Star, the compost Orgaworld produces from the Toronto ‘diversion program’ is so toxic, it would kill any plants growing from the soil it was used to ‘enrich’.
The sole reason for the green-bin program is to produce compost that can be used as fertilizer. 

If independent tests show that the compost Orgaworld produces is so toxic that it cannot be used as fertilizer, would this constitute ‘non-compliance’ and/or ‘breech of contract’ by Orgaworld?

  • IF Orgaworld is caught shipping some of the materials from the green-bins to be disposed of as garbage?
In Toronto, whose program is admittedly different from ours, they estimate that up to 22% of the materials Orgaworld accepts is not composted, but burned or dumped in landfills.
Is this standard practice here? 

What percentage of the ‘Ottawa green-bin materials’ we think is being composted does Orgaworld dispose of as ‘garbage’?

We are paying much more for ‘composting’ than we would be for ‘garbage disposal’:  if Orgaworld does not actually compost a certain percentage of the material, should they not refund us that percentage of the fees we pay them?

Would ‘not-composting’ materials we pay them to ‘compost’ constitute ‘non-compliance’ and/or ‘breech of contract’ by Orgaworld?

  • IF any of the materials (finished or not) Orgaworld releases from their plant is found to contain active pathogens which should have been rendered inert in ‘properly produced compost’?
The Toronto Star had found that some of the compost produced from the Toronto program which had been sold as ‘finished product’ actually still contained some live germs which should have been killed in a ‘proper’ composting process.  (To be fair – it does not specify if it was Orgaworld’s product or another manufacturer’s.) 

In an separate incident, it was found that Orgaworld had dumped tons of semi-processed bio-matter – ‘unfinished’ and in various stages of decomposition in places like gravel pits, farm fields and city-owned land without preparing these places to accept bio-waste.

This is an active threat to public health!

Rotting food contains bacteria and other micro-organisms which are toxic to us, humans.  The composting process kills these infectious agents, so that by the time the finished compost is spread on land, the deadly pathogens are neutralized and cannot enter the drinking water system and/or cling to the produce grown in that soil (like, say, e-coli contamination of spinach…).  Some pathogens can become airborne, causing people who inhale them to become ill.

The ‘accelerated’ processes in use in the modern ‘composting factories’ rely on a highly controlled and regulated environment to achieve the composting process which kills these deadly germs. (In the natural, non-accelerated composting process, this takes years and this is why our ancestors had exact composting practices instead of just dumping rotting food on their fields.)

If the bio-matter is dumped outside of this controlled environment before it is completely turned into compost, these pathogens will still be active and pose a serious danger. 

(In addition to the ‘leaching’ and ‘airborn pathogen’ dangers, this could lead to a type of decompostion during which Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is released:  this ‘greenhouse gas’ is 240 times ‘stronger’ than Carbon Dioxide (CO2)!)   😉

Would endangering public health through disposal of only partially-neutralized bio-waste constitute ‘non-compliance’ and/or ‘breech of contract’?

Which brings me to some questions:

What is the quality of the compost Orgaworld produces from the Ottawa ‘Green-bin program’? 

Has anyone tested it?

If so, who?

And where?

How independent are the testing facilities?

The Orgaworld’s Ottawa composting factory had a fire a few months ago.  Fire/smoke is an indicator of ‘improper composting practices’.  Has there ever been an investigation to ascertain which ‘best practices’ were breached in the composting process and caused the fire and how the resultant product will be impacted?

What are the provisions in the Ottawa-Orgaworld contract for non-compliance/breech of contract?  What are the penalties specified?

Are these provisions/penalties ‘similar’ to the ‘industry standard’?

How does this compare to the ‘standard’ for other ‘City contracts’?

How does this compare to the ‘standard contracts’ in the private sector?

Who is responsible for the oversight?  What are the terms and conditions?  Are they being fulfilled?

Who is responsible for any action should there be non-compliance/breech of contract?

Where/how can citizens (especially taxpayers) monitor this process?

Mr. Snow:  you are an excellent journalist who often interviews our City Officials as well as all kinds of other interesting people.  Would you, please, find the answers to these questions?

If you do find any answers to these questions – or any other relevant information – I would be very happy to publish all of it on my blog.

Sincerely yours,

Alexandra,
blogging as Xanthippa

References (in case the links get stripped out from the text):
http://www.thestar.com/iphone/article/660864
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/660862
http://www2.macleans.ca/tag/orgaworld/

Click to access 382500-11.pdf


http://www.ehow.com/list_7313994_hazards-composting.html
http://www.pma.com/resources/issues-monitoring/food-safety/key-learnings-real-world-terms
http://www.extension.org/article/28585
http://www.owma.org/committees/members.asp?mode=d&org=244
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Smouldering+compost+sends+firefighters+Orgaworld+plant/3427666/story.html