Pulp and Paper Canada

Abitibi-Consolidated: paper fibre biosolids are safe, in Pelham, ON.

September 1, 2006  By Pulp & Paper Canada



SAN FRANCISCO — Paper fibre biosolids, or sludge, are a controversial issue in Pelham, ON, despite decades of using the waste byproduct of paper recycling from Abitibi-Consolidated’s Thorold, ON, mill, said a July 27 article in the Welland Tribune.


In fact, disposal of the biosolids is an increasing problem across Ontario, which faces mounting pressure from several groups to change regulations, including recommendations made a year ago by its own expert panel. Industry is also looking at other disposal methods.

Abitibi said it is spending $100,000 to investigate energy-from-waste alternatives. Industry has also been investigating alternatives such as incineration. Atlantic Packaging Products Ltd. is building a multi-million-dollar incinerator to burn 150 tonnes/day of sludge, recover the leftover clay, and provide steam power for a recycling plant.

Sludge has been used in the Niagara Peninsula as farm fertilizer and on golf fairways, but a 20,000-tonne-and-growing berm in Pelham, put there to stop train noise, is raising local concerns over possible leaks of inks and chemicals, and E. coli bacterial contamination of air and water.

Panel recommendations suggest changing regulations to include Sound-Sorb, which is made from mixing paper fibre sludge with sand that can then be legally used to build a berm without government approval, according to the Sludge Watch website.

Abitibi says it regularly tests its sludge, which consists primarily of water, paper fibre and clay, and claims it is cleaner than sewage waste that is approved for use as fertilizer. A spokesperson for the Thorold mill said it is non-toxic, has been repeatedly tested, and should not be landfilled when it can be used elsewhere.

The Thorold mill produces 400 tonnes/day of sludge, and recycling plants across Ontario produce thousands of tonnes of sludge every year. While the sludge problem grows, disposal options are shrinking. Michigan no longer accepts Ontario sludge, full regional landfills can’t accept it, and private dumps don’t want to, the Welland Tribune reported.

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