Beginning in the summer of 2010, tons of organic waste, set aside by residents of suburban Toronto, were hauled away by an upstate New York company that promised to turn the waste into rich, valuable compost to enrich soil and fertilize plants. Instead, a new lawsuit alleges, the organic waste was unceremoniously buried at Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca County.
Now the Regional Municipality of York wants $6 million in compensation for the diversion, which their lawsuit flatly labels “fraud.”
At issue is an ambitious organics recycling program by York Region, a community of 1.1 million people north of the city of Toronto. Residents there were given toters into which were to place food waste, paper and certain other materials that will break down during composting. The municipality hired several companies, including WeCare Organics of upstate New York, to take away this waste and compost it.
WeCare Organics was to be paid $158 a ton to compost up to 30,000 tons a year at its facility in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Rochester on Dec. 27, York Region officials received an “anonymous tip” in January 2012 that WeCare wasn’t hauling that organic waste all the way to Marlborough for transformation into environmentally friendly compost.
Officials determined a month later that virtually all of the organic waste hauled away by WeCare had instead wound up at Seneca Meadows, New York’s largest landfill, the lawsuit alleges. This was news to York, and by the spring of 2012, the contract between the municipality and WeCare had been terminated.
That leaves the small matter of $6 million, which is the amount that WeCare allegedly billed the municipality between July 2010 and April 2012.
In its suit, York claims WeCare officials lied when they promised to compost the material and defrauded the municipality by submitting invoices claiming they were doing so.
The legal papers note that composting organics is more expensive than simply burying them, but that the municipality’s citizens were willing to pay a premium to see the waste turned into a useful commodity.
WeCare hasn’t responded to the lawsuit in court yet. WeCare also faces legal problems at the other end of the process – in Massachusetts, where the city of Marlborough filed its own federal lawsuit in November claiming the composting plant where York’s organics were supposed to be taken is violating environmental laws and unleashing a foul odor on neighbors.
Does anyone really know where their organics go?