It started out with the best of intentions.

Coun. Adam Vaughan held a news conference yesterday to announce the launch of a “community compost site” for residents of Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), which he represents.

The composter, a hole in the ground about 1.5-by-1.5-metres wide and about a metre deep, sits just beyond the front steps of Scadding Court Community Centre, at Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street.

Vaughan proudly showed off the composter he and the community centre worked to set up to give residents “sustainable ways” to manage waste building up during the strike by the city’s outdoor workers.

The catch?

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment says the composter doesn’t comply with the Environmental Protection Act because it contains waste from various residences, a definite no-no without a certificate of approval from the ministry.

“Once they start accepting waste from other areas and other residences, more waste from a broader area, that’s when you need the approval.

“That’s when it becomes complicated,” said Kate Jordan, a spokeswoman for the ministry, which got wind of the compost pit yesterday after the launch was broadcast on television.

“You need approval to ensure you are accepting waste properly, monitoring waste, storing and handling the site properly, taking measures to control odours, and you need security to make sure this happens,” Jordan said.

“The requirements are there to protect public health and safety and the environment from any adverse effects,” Jordan added.

Vaughan was notified yesterday afternoon that the composter will have to be shut down or an application made for a certificate, which requires a $200 administration charge plus a fee depending on the size of the pit.

While the councillor and community centre had been unaware of the rules, Kevin Lee, executive director of Scadding Court, said he plans to comply with the law.

The community centre operated a similar composter during the 2002 garbage strike — the ministry was apparently unaware — and used the compost on a community garden. TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE