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Proposed emissions from South Surrey rubber plant concern

Weir Minerals Canada officials say plant 'will operate within Metro Vancouver's air-quality objective levels'
Joanna Tucker and her father Frank Mueggenbury are among South Surrey and Langley residents concerned with emissions proposed to be discharged from the Weir Minerals Canada facility in Campbell Heights.

A request to release emissions from a new rubber-manufacturing plant in South Surrey's Campbell Heights is raising concerns among area residents whose neighbourhoods border the facility.

"It's very vague, it's only an estimate of what would be discharged," Margaret McDonald, a Brookswood resident, said of contaminant details outlined in a notice distributed last month by Weir Minerals Canada officials regarding the company's plant at 18933 34A Ave.

"Some of the stuff they've got is hydrochloric acid… it was just listed as if it was nonchalant.

"It's not a nice product, even in low concentration."

Weir's general manager, Ricky Nolan, told Peace Arch News this week that the plant "will operate within the air quality objective levels as established by Metro Vancouver."

A public meeting regarding the application is in the works, and expected to take place in early April, Nolan added.

"We are compiling all queries received from the community and will address these at the public meeting," he said by email.

Father and daughter Frank Mueggenburg and Joanna Tucker, who live on 96 acres in the 18600-block of 24 Avenue, describe Weir as a good company but said zero emissions is the only acceptable proposal.

Tucker, who operates a before-and-after-school outdoor learning centre on her family's property, said she is concerned about the potential impact of any emissions to the children she cares for, as well as her own three sons.

According to an environmental protection notice (EPN) issued in January, Weir has applied for a permit to discharge air contaminants from up to nine sources at the 10,657-square-metre plant.

The emissions are to include "products of natural gas combustion from a boiler, a steam generator, two urethane curing ovens, and filtered exhaust from a paint room, two adhesive application booths, a grit blast room dust collector and a rubber buffing room."

In addition to hydrogen chloride, the contaminants listed include nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants.

"My children are going to be breathing whatever these particulates are," Tucker said. "We have our kids playing in puddles. Who knows what it's going to do to the quality of that?"

In Weir's notice to residents, the plant is described as "state-of-the-art." It combines facilities previously operating in Richmond and Delta; a consolidation done "to operate more efficiently, grow our business, reduce environment impact and provide better service," the notice states.

"We are committed to being a good neighbour… and (will) continue to explore ways to reduce our emissions even further where possible."

According to the EPN, the application is a revision of one that was submitted in August 2016, which projected annual emissions totalling 42 tonnes. Following public feedback, a review of the modelling reduced the emissions by 94 per cent, to an estimated 2.49 tonnes per year – and, according to the revised EPN, eliminated hydrogen chloride emissions.

All substances "fall well below Metro Vancouver air quality standards," and that model results indicate that particulate matter emissions "will be very small and… largely remain inside the boundaries of the property."

McDonald, who lives about 10 blocks northeast of the site, said she is concerned by what the notice doesn't state: actual emissions and plans for protecting groundwater.

She is particularly concerned about the potential impact to a natural aquifer that supplies residents and businesses alike, and described the lack of detail as "a mess."

"From what I understand, it's all estimate-guesstimate, and it's garbage," McDonald said. "We need actual facts."

Mueggenburg said a key issue for him is the plant and other developments in the area that are receiving approvals from the City of Surrey don't gel with the "light industrial" zoning, which mandates, in part, that any use "is not offensive by reason of smoke, vibration, smell, toxic fumes, electrical interference…"

"This doesn't fit," Mueggenburg said, noting particulate matter is a main concern.

"Once it gets into you, you never get rid of it," he said.

He is confident, however, that Weir could reduce its emissions to zero.

"This is a good kind of company. If they cleaned it up… they'd get their money back," he said.

"They'd be a model of what could be done."

He noted that Langley Township staff who hosted an open house Tuesday night regarding plans for parks in the area, as well as residents who attended it, were surprised to learn about the facility's proposed emissions.

"I said, 'it's beautiful, but what are you going to breathe?'" Mueggenburg said.

According to a March 6 memorandum to Langley Township mayor and council from its community development division, the amended EPN does not provide information regarding "predicted impacts to local ambient air quality, human health and the receiving environment." Township staff has recommended that Metro require the applicants to provide "an air quality impact assessment supported by air dispersion modelling."

Mueggenburg said he wants Metro Vancouver to come up with a system that will monitor the facility for emissions 24/7.

According to Metro Vancouver officials, Weir's current dispersion modelling report is under review.

Ray Robb, Metro's environmental regulation and enforcement division manager, told PAN that the company's public meeting will likely be what's considered the last date in the notification phase. However, it will not be the last opportunity for public comment.

"The opportunity for public comment does not close until a decision is made," Robb said by email Tuesday. "We allow at least 30 days after the date of the last form of public notification before making a decision."

Mueggenburg said if the decision is to allow emissions, and Weir doesn't take steps to eliminate emissions, he will be taking the matter to the Environmental Appeal Board.

"Anybody who's going to pollute here, I'm going to take it as far as I damn well can," he said.




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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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