Notre Dame de Grace - If you're visiting Jim Fares's home, you may want to steer clear of the toaster oven.
For the past few months, Fares has been using the kitchen appliance to cook dog poop.
As a member of the Notre Dame de Grace Dog Run Association, a volunteer organization that operates the dog run in N.D.G. Park, Fares is heading a pilot project to turn dog excrement into compost.
After four years and 1,360 kilograms of dog poop, the association has yet to find a way to turn excrement collected at the run into something useful.
So far, the compost produced has either been found to contain whipworm eggs - which are potentially unsafe for humans to handle - or it has been bereft of any useful nutrients.
"I bought a toaster oven and I heated some samples over a two- to three-week period. Not only did I manage to kill the (pathogens), but also every living thing in the compost, so what I have left is a pile of dust," Fares said Tuesday.
On the positive side, however, Fares said the experiments have shown it's possible to produce compost cheaply from dog feces, a success that has so far alluded cities across North America.
To do that, he must figure out how long to cook the compost and then find a method to duplicate his toaster oven success on the large scale with thousands of kilograms of excrement lying in the dog run.
Fares envisions a day when compost bins are available in all parks, diverting thousands of plastic bags, and several tonnes of dog feces from garbage dumps.
"There's no question it can be done," Fares said. "Everyone knows how to make it usable, but the cost is the problem."
Fares said it could be months or years before the association can come up with a viable plan, but he's optimistic.
So is Marcel Tremblay, the city councillor for the sector, and the head of Montreal's cleanliness campaign. Tremblay said even though the dog run association hasn't produced results yet, the program has merit.
"Maybe we're doing something that will help all of Canada," Tremblay said. "This is something that's a problem in every city, so if we can come up with a way to dispose of this in an environmentally friendly way, it's a good thing."
Tremblay contributed about $1,000 from his discretionary fund to the dog run association to help pay for things like compost bins, and tests of soil samples from the compost pile.
Currently, volunteers manage the 14 bins in the park. They add sawdust to them every day and seal them once they are full. The sawdust helps keep the smell at bay, but the only real way to eliminate smell is to stir it every day - a fairly labour intensive job for which the dog run association can't seem to find volunteers.
After six months, the bins are opened and the compost is dumped into the southeast corner of the dog run. While the compost may contain pathogens, Fares says there's little risk to dogs or humans.
"There's nothing the dogs can pick up there that they can't get at any other dog run," he said.
People who come into contact with the compost, should wash their hands, Fares said.