Greater Moncton Sewage Commission
“My greatest strength was that I did not have any previous knowledge of the industry,” says Ron Leblanc, Chairman of the Greater Moncton Sewage Commission (GMSC), of its inception in 1983.
Asked to participate as a volunteer on the Board of Directors of GMSC, Leblanc states his mandate was “to plan, design, build, construct and operate a wastewater treatment system and a waste water collection plant and deal with the treated water coming in and going out, as well with the resulting solids that eventually get transformed into sludge, into biosolids and into compost.”
“We recycle it all back into nature in a scientifically and environmentally responsible way.”
Becoming operational in 1994, GMSC met with the Department of Environment and was told not to worry about the sludge that was going to be produced as it was all going to go to the landfill. Then, according to Leblanc, the same department told the opposite to the landfill executives.
“They told them not to worry about the sludge that Greater Moncton is going to produce because it’s not coming to you. Just by coincidence, the chair of the Solid Waste Commission and I spoke to each other and realized we were told the opposite,” says Leblanc. “We then realized we had better take charge of this challenge ourselves.
“We started understanding our organics and that they were properly treated and should be recycled back into nature, once we made that philosophical decision,” says Leblanc. “We moved on to getting the best treatment processing in place to be able to raise it back into nature; to get public and scientific acceptance and understanding.”
Many think that once you build a wastewater treatment plant that you have done your duty and that you have dealt with the environment. Not so, says Leblanc.
“That is just the start. Building it is the easy part. Once you turn the key that is when the challenges begin,” says Leblanc. “At the political and regulatory level, sometimes we don’t have an understanding of the full environmental picture. In building wastewater treatment plants, you have to understand the energy footprint that is involved. By treating water, you are also creating air pollution because you are using energy, so you can’t take one in isolation of the other.”
That’s just one step in the multi-layer process, according to Leblanc.
“Once you’ve treated the waste water, you then extract solids. How do you deal with the solids? How do you recycle them back into nature? The philosophy that we had for our particular commission was that we would use 100 per cent of the sludge that we extract, treat it properly and recycle it 100 per cent back into nature, as opposed to putting it into a landfill or incinerating it.”
It was a few years back when GMSC decided to recycle all within the community that produces the materials.
“I said that at a conference and I was looked at like what I was saying would be impossible to do,” says Leblanc. “Well, it’s not impossible to do. You have to do it right. You have to do it intelligently. You have to do it with the utmost environmental and scientific objectives in mind and now we have people lined up to get our product.”
Leblanc stressed the fact that companies need to build strong public confidence in its product. Once the public has confidence and realize it’s good, the long-term game and objective are met.
“Right now we have more demand for our product than we have product. People get engaged environmentally,” says Leblanc, adding that the largest problem in Canada currently, from the standpoint of GMSC, is that “there is no organization in place to which municipalities can go to get the information, the knowledge and all of the coordination and cooperation of the various departments involved. We were focused so we did it, but it’s not that easy for everybody.
“In Canada, we are missing urbanization. In the United States, they have a national biosalts to deal with that, from a regulatory point of view, to all the different aspects, to the challenges that come with that. In Canada, it does not exist. We tried to get it going. We have to get the political and regulatory officials on board. I don’t think they understand the problem. Until we get the focus on the issue, it will not go as efficiently as it should.”
As the first international organization outside of the United States to obtain Environmental Management Systems (EMS) certification—receiving that certification in June of this year—means a “culture of excellence, while being fiscally responsible.”
“Our culture is not to aim for meeting environmental regulations. Our culture is to do the best possible in whatever that is,” says Leblanc.
“We held the world conference, brought all the world specialists on the issue to Moncton; we had 44 different countries. We had United Nations, The World Bank, the World Health Organization, and all the experts from across the world come here and share their knowledge and expertise,” says Leblanc. “We led the way to prepare a global atlas on biosolids and sludge from waste water, in conjunction and published with United Nations. We’re very proud of that. It’s a very good tool and something for others that don’t have the knowledge or the technology that we have to go forward.”
Leblanc stressed that the environment is “a never ending challenge”, insisting that GMSC is always aiming to improve its treatment services.
“On one of the projects that we have been asked to participate in—and we’re going to be asking other Canadian municipalities to participate—is a water partnership operators program where countries in need of mentoring can partner with Canadian municipalities to exchange knowledge and personnel. They can come over here to learn and we can go over there to teach and to learn,” says Leblanc. “We are hoping to help in that aspect to widen the horizons of our Canadian municipalities and to help those in dire need of knowledge.”
Referring to the overall project, Leblanc states that “it was a long-term philosophy, but when you take a long-term approach, at the end of the day, it is more economical fiscally.”