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Council flushes garburators down drain

Cochrane town council has taken a stand against garburators. The council received a report from Miles Chester with the Cochrane Environmental Committee (CEC) on Feb. 22 regarding the use of garburators to dispose of organic waste.
Grinding your organic waste through your sink’s garburator is going to be a thing of the past as Cochrane moves towards organic waste recycling.
Grinding your organic waste through your sink’s garburator is going to be a thing of the past as Cochrane moves towards organic waste recycling.

Cochrane town council has taken a stand against garburators.

The council received a report from Miles Chester with the Cochrane Environmental Committee (CEC) on Feb. 22 regarding the use of garburators to dispose of organic waste.

According to a report by Rick Deans, senior manager of infrastructure services with the town, in Dec. 2014, the CEC asked council to endorse a work plan for 2014/2015 which included researching the environmental impact of garburators and provide a recommendation by presenting fact-based logic to incorporate the possibility of restricting the use of residential garburators in new homes. Since then, the CEC has prepared a background research document on the positives and negatives of garburators.

“The discussion tonight also coincides with our Zero-Waste Framework and the educational campaign on curbside organics that we intend on engaging our citizens on in 2016 and 2017,” Deans said.

“With over 25 years operating wastewater collection systems, I do recognize some of the challenges and issues that garburators present in both the home systems as well as the municipal wastewater collection systems,” Deans continued.

Chester explained his report contains months of online research about the impact garburators have on the environment and the wastewater collection systems.

“Basically, they use more water. Water is used with garburators to mix with the solids and wash them through the sewer systems,” Chester explained.

“We tend to be a very environmental community here so water conservation is very important to us.

“Treatment of garburator solids places an extra strain on water treatment plants and they negatively impact aquatic life by increasing nutrient loads and decreasing oxygen levels in our rivers. In addition to that, if we can reduce the amount of solids going through our pipes we can make them last longer,” Chester continued.

He explained that a common phenomenon seen downstream of water treatment plants is called oxygen sag – where the additional nutrient load in the rivers means there is less oxygen and it can stress the fish population.

“The build up of food waste inside of pipes, whether it’s inside someone’s home or inside the municipal sewer system, can cause clogs.”

He mentioned some municipalities within Ontario that have banned the use of residential garburators include: Toronto, Ottawa, Markham, Vaughan, and Guelph.

Some Canadian communities that strongly discourage the use of garburators include: Vancouver, Nanaimo, St. Albert, St. Catherine’s, and Edmonton.

He also mentioned the opposite side of the argument – why the town should continue to use garburators.

“It is viable alternative instead of throwing away organics. As we move to zero-waste, the last thing we want to do is throw away organics, we are a community that is moving toward recycling organics.”

He noted that garburators prove useful for condos that don’t have the opportunity to utilize a roadside pick-up program to dispose of organics, but that there are few buildings this applies to in Cochrane.

Chester’s recommendation on behalf of the CEC was for Cochrane to start prohibiting developers from installing garburators in new homes and to discourage the use of garburators in homes that currently have them. He noted the CEC doesn’t want the town to require residents to remove their existing garburators.

“I’m not seeing a lot of builders installing garburators anyways, that’s just an added-on expense that buyers don’t really want,” commented Coun. Jeff Toews.

“I agree less and less are being put in, however, more homes today are still being roughed in with the power as well as the ability to install one fairly easily after the fact,” responded Chester.

“I just wanted to point out that I really think that with the role of our green initiative in 2017, this does not really pose any hardship on anybody. It really speaks to the philosophy behind the Zero-Waste Framework,” said Coun. Ross Watson.

Toews made a motion to direct administration to prepare amendments to the Wasterwater Bylaw to ban garburators for all new residential building permits in Cochrane and to create a communications plan to strongly discourage the use of garburators during the education phase of the organics collection program. The motion was carried.