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Entrepreneur proposes new technology for waste disposal.

With attention-grabbing headlines stirring public debate over the safety of Ontario's drinking water and Toronto's ongoing garbage disposal woes, a Manitoulin businessman insists he has the answers to both problems.

Rick Gagnon, owner of Gagnon Renewable Resource Inc., is out to change people's attitudes on how waste should be disposed of.

What killed seven people in Walkerton two years ago, and made thousands more ill, was cow dung carrying an especially virulent strain of E. coli that leaked from one of many area factory farms into one of the town's wells. That tragedy only served to ignite Gagnon's passion and sense of entrepreneurial timing to get his rotary drum composter prototype onto the market fast.

The Gore Bay installer of solar/wind powered systems is field-testing a garbage composter at the nearby Kagawong landfill, processing about 15 to 20 tonnes a day under the watchful eyes of the ministries of environment and agriculture.

Garbage that goes in one end - household trash, fish offal, pulp and paper waste, municipal sludge, barnyard manure - comes out the other as stable compost material.

"Anything organic can be processed, even dead animals," says Warren Maskell, Gagnon's Sudbury sales manager. Anything biodegradable, solid or liquid can be processed.

How it works is not anything revolutionary beyond what happens in a backyard composter. However, instead of breaking down material at an almost glacial-like pace, a few "expensive" technological twists speed up the process, says Gagnon.

Garbage is fed into a bin that empties into a rotating drum chamber, housed inside a unit about the size of a shipping container. The slow tumbling action - between 15 and 28 rotations per hour - helps build up heat inside. By injecting a specially-imported bacterial activator (harmless to humans), the biological process is accelerated, boosting temperatures to 70 degrees C before being excavated as compost.

After viewing similar-technologies worldwide, Gagnon outfitted his fully automated rig with a heat-monitoring system to optimize the activity inside and with biological filters to eliminate any emissions and ensure no residue is left behind.

Financing his machine from "sweat equity," spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a three-year-old idea that began with a 45-gallon drum, Gagnon says his motivation goes beyond just manufacturing and selling a machine.

It's manufacturing a machine that will change our attitudes to what we're allowing to happen at the present time, "Gagnon says. "Whether it's landfill, farms, industry, we have to become more responsible for our actions.

A Laurentian University environmental researcher who is monitoring and assisting in bringing this technology to market says Gagnon's timing is perfect. If it works as well as promised, says Graeme Spiers, director of Laurentian's Centre for Environmental Monitoring, "I can see one sitting in every landfill.

"It could be put in at the Sudbury landfill, with some sorting at the source, and would extend the life of the landfill at minimal cost," Spiers says. The end product could conceivably be sold by the municipality as ordinary garden compost.

With much discussion taking place as to how to stop contaminants from leaking into municipal drinking water systems, Spiers says the market potential is huge.
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Article Details
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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