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Processing plant bid raises concerns: Citizens group worried about water supply
Scott Larson, The StarPhoenix December 5, 2013
An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for Fortune Minerals' proposal to build a $200 million Saskatchewan Metals Processing Plant (SMPP) just outside of Langham is currently under review by the ministry.
Fortune intends to ship bulk concentrate from the company's NICO mine in the Northwest Territories and produce gold dore, cobalt sulphate and/or cobalt cathode, bismuth ingot and copper metal precipitate to be processed at the Langham plant.
"There are so many unanswered questions and potential hazards associated with the project," said SES board member Ann Coxworth.
"The risks to Langham and surrounding area overwhelmingly outweigh the potential benefits."
Coxworth said the hazardous waste produced by the plant and stored on-site will last forever and poses a significant risk to the community.
Ken Crush, who chairs a group called Fortune Minerals Issues Group, said many people are concerned about the impact the plant might have on the area's main water supply from the Dalmeny aquifer.
"We are very concerned about our water supply," said Crush, a retired teacher who lives in the area. "Once the water is damaged, it can't be fixed."
Liquid waste from the plant would be injected into a deep underground formation through wells that would go through the Dalmeny aquifer.
Critics are also concerned the amount of water used at the plant would lower water levels at other local wells.
Rick Schryer, Fortune's director of regulatory and environmental affairs, said the company heard those concerns at public consultations in 2011.
He said they have been able to reduce water usage by 35 per cent from what was originally proposed, adding that the provincial watershed authority agrees with the company's finding that the plant's water use is not going to affect any other existing groundwater users in the area.
He said monitoring wells will be constructed around the property and to safeguard against any leak, adding the type of well used for the liquid waste is the same type the potash industry uses.
"It is the best technology out there in terms of injection," he said.
Peter Prebble, SES director of environmental policy, said another concern is the chemicals, such as sodium cyanide and arsenic, that will be used to process the ore at the plant.
"Sodium cyanide is banned in several jurisdictions, including Montana, and arsenic is a carcinogen that is hazardous to public health in concentrations as low as ten parts per billion," Prebble said.
"The use of these chemicals on the proposed site, and the plans to dispose of arsenic-laced waste, will pose a long term safety concern for local residents, and for those who move into the area in the future, as the population of the Saskatoon region expands."
Schryer countered that sodium cyanide is used all over Canada for processing gold. The cyanide the company will use will be brought to the plant as a solid briquette, stored dry on-site until it's needed, then turned into a liquid form before being destroyed and turned into carbon dioxide and nitrogen, he said.
"It is never in the form of a gas and it is never connected to an outside vent."
The plant has an operational life of about 20 years and the company says it will generate 158,000 tonnes of toxic waste annually, to be stored permanently in pits beside the plant.
Coxworth said the waste poses a real risk to the community and the company has not shown that its storage facility will be safe for years to come.
Schryer said the storage facility is the most sophisticated ever designed in Saskatchewan, consisting of layers of impermeable clay and a 60-mm liner, with a leak detection system underneath.
Schryer said the company expects the NICO mine to be fully permitted by next June, and it will then take 14 to 18 months to build and begin production.
Once the mine is approved, the company will look at building the plant, he said.
The Ministry of Environment's Environmental Assessment Branch is accepting submissions regarding the processing facility until Friday.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
Canada, U.S. waste-water groups join war on flushable wipes
December 4, 2013 Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press
It’s a municipal problem, so the refrain goes, and so the Canadian Water and Waste-water Association is joining forces with its American counterpart, the Water Environment Federation, to take aim at the popular towelettes.
The wipes — billed as a cleaner alternative to toilet paper that’s perfectly OK to flush down the toilet — are giving many municipalities fits as they grapple with costly clogs.
Personal wipes are a $6-billion industry in North America, with experts predicting sales will soar by as much as six per cent annually over the next five years. Canadian municipalities, however, say the wipes are costing ratepayers as much as $250 million a year.
In both the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers voluntarily test products for flushability and insist their wipes pass with flying colours, but federal laws don’t require third-party assessment or verification.
Both the CWWA and its U.S. sister organization are now pushing manufacturers to allow independent testing of their products, and to label them with more clarity. The CWWA is also exploring the creation of a Canadian standard for use of the term “flushable,” said Robert Haller, the association’s executive director.
“We have to move in conjunction with efforts in the United States so that if we end up with an industry standard, we want it to be harmonized on both sides of the border,” Haller said.
“We don’t want our manufacturing sector having to make a different quality for Canada than the U.S. And it’s the same issue on both sides. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in municipalities to clear pipes, to repair grinders, and on increased maintenance costs.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is also looking into flushable wipes.
“It’s an issue we consider a real problem,” a spokesman said. “We’re working with our member communities and we’ll be proposing recommendations some time early in the new year.”
In the face of growing public scrutiny about their products in Canada over the past few weeks, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry — known as INDA — has reached out to Canadian municipalities, pledging to do more to help educate consumers on what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.
While waste-water officials are currently drafting a rebuttal to INDE, which represents manufacturers like Kimberly-Clark and SC Johnson, they’re also pleased the group has finally made contact after years of silence in the face of complaints from Canadian municipalities.
“That’s a big step, and very encouraging, because for a long time they’d just completely ignore us,” said Paul Drca, the manager of environmental quality for the City of Windsor in southwestern Ontario.
Drca said Canadian municipalities and waste-water officials have two objectives — a federal flushability standard and a widespread public education campaign.
“How do you define flushable? If you put something in a toilet bowl and hit the handle and it goes down the toilet, some manufacturers would argue that’s flushable, but it’s not,” he said.
“Yeah, it was flushed, but it hasn’t disappeared. Some of the products labelled flushable simply do not disintegrate.”
An even bigger battle, Drca said, needs to be waged against public attitudes, particularly in the face of glitzy advertising campaigns that are convincing consumers that toilet paper is no longer sufficient to keep their nether regions fresh.
“We have found the enemy and he is us,” Drca said.
“It’s the citizens, the residents of the community that are using these products in droves. They have to be educated that these wipes do not go down the toilet — and it’s not just these wipes, it’s paper towel, feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, diapers. We have to get the message out — use them if you like, but do not flush them.”
St. John’s resident gets water runaround
December 3rd, 2013 Andrew Robinson, The Telegram
It took conversations with three levels of government for a St. John’s resident to get something done about a large amount of sediment that was finding its way into a stream that feeds into the Waterford River.
“I thought it was appalling that it should take that many hoops that a person would have to go through to try to make a sensible report and get a response,” she said.
It was on a Thursday that Baird noticed sediment flowing into a stream off Griffin’s Lane.
“There were a couple of silt fences there, but they were both collapsed,” said Baird. “They hadn’t been properly maintained.”
In years past, Baird would report spills to the Canadian Coast Guard radio communications. She found that process was straightforward and that people would followup with you in a timely fashion if there were any additional questions.
“There were people within Environment Canada in particular that I had come to know quite well,” said Baird, a board member with the environmental action group Northeast Avalon ACAP.
“We could always count on them to give the more solid scrutiny. That’s no longer there.”
According to Baird, contact information taken through the environmental emergency line failed to include her full phone number, thus the province’s Water Resource Management Division was unable to immediately get in touch with Baird.
Baird was eventually put in touch with that division of the Department of Environment and Conversation, but was told on Friday, Nov. 22, that the person who had looked at her file was not working that day.
Apparently, that was one of two people within the division tasked with handling such issues for the entire province.
“Having only two people at any given time in the entire province of Newfoundland that are committed to responding to environmental issues (with water) is not nearly enough,” said Baird.
The staff person Baird spoke with recommended she contact the city.
“Up until that point, I hadn’t been aware that the city was an agency that went out and did investigations of environmental offences, and when I did call the city, the comment from the woman at the 311 number when I explained why I was calling them, she said they’re doing this more and more all the time. It’s a passing of the buck down the line.”
Baird did get a message through to the right person in the engineering department and learned the sediment was coming from a City of St. John’s capital works project that had been contracted out. Consulting engineers kept Baird updated during the weekend as several new silt fences were installed along with straw bales and crushed stone to help filter the water.
“I was impressed to see how quickly it had improved once they had gotten on to it.”
According to a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Conservation, complaints to the Water Resource Management Division are reviewed internally before any followup action is taken. The spokeswoman said staff did visit and assess the site the next day and take photos.
“Our record shows that no permits were issued for this work by the Water Resources Management Division and the work was related to a stormwater system by the City of St. John’s for which no permit is required from the Water Resources Management Division.”
Division staff have since contacted the city to ensure “proper silt control measures are in place.”
Utility shouldn’t run conservation plan: Pettipas
December 2, 2013 Remo Zaccagna, Business Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Paul Pettipas made his remarks at the first day of provincial Utility and Review Board hearings into a Halifax Water proposal to create a levy on all new development.
“Why wouldn’t we consider water in the same vein?” Pettipas said during his presentation, drawing parallels with Efficiency Nova Scotia energy conservation policies.
Halifax Water should not be the ones enacting such programs, he said.
“You cannot expect the person who is tasked with selling the water to be the one to conserve (it). Halifax Water has not proved they know what a conservation policy is all about.”
The water utility projects to spend $2.6 billion over the next 30 years on existing and new infrastructure and to meet environmental obligations.
Halifax Water estimates that 20 per cent of that total, or $521 million, would come from the new development charge, which would replace three existing levies.
But Pettipas said single-family housing starts are down 30 per cent in Halifax Regional Municipality, and about 22 per cent of a home’s cost is attributed to government fees.
“We do have some concerns and one of the main concerns of our members is the 30-year plan. Economists have trouble forecasting what will happen next year.”
The proposed rate structure would mean that on March 1, a charge of $3,678 for waste-water services could be tacked onto a building permit for a single-unit residence or townhouse. That figure would rise to $5,728 on April 1, 2015.
The charge for a multiple-unit dwelling would be $2,366 on March 1 and $3,847 on April 1, 2015.
In addition, a charge for waste-water services of $1.64 per square foot for new industrial, commercial or institutional buildings would be levied on March 1, rising to $2.71 per square foot the following year.
A water levy of $168 would be applied to single-unit homes as of March 1, and that would double to $337 the following year. For multi-unit buildings, the charge would be $113 and then $226.
Ben Young, chief executive officer of Ramar Developments and president of the Urban Development Institute of Nova Scotia, said the group is not opposed to the concept of a regional development charge.
“We don’t want the public to (perceive) it that way,” Young said in an interview during a break. “We understand and agree with the fact that new development should pay for new growth requirements.”
But he said the utility has used assumptions in its calculations on things that are “overly aggressive,” which in the end will result in higher fees for homeowners.
The institute has called on Halifax Water to scrutinize those numbers “a little more carefully.”
“It seems to be more about get it done fast than get it done right,” Young said. “We’re saying, look, if it’s going to be a 30-year plan, let’s just get it done right. Let’s take the time, another six to 12 months is not the end of the world. I’d rather do it properly in the first place.”
Under cross-examination, Jamie Hannam, Halifax Water’s director of engineering and information services, said the utility tried to find “appropriate” assumptions that are based on “the information and data we have to support that.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the full suite of assumptions that we’ve gone through as conservative through the full list. We have developed what we believe are reasonable assumptions based on our data in industry best practice. Some would be conservative, some would be deemed aggressive.”
The utility has proposed that the charge be adjusted every five years or when a condition changes that results in a 15 per cent impact on the charge.
Cathie O’Toole, Halifax Water’s finance director, said that the adjustment would be retroactive “if we determine there was an over-collection.” The amount would be refunded.
“We are not proposing retroactive adjustment in the event of an under-collection, so the utility would assume risk with respect to that.”
The hearing resumes today.
Fracking waste targeted
December 3, 2013 Michael Gorman, Staff Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
The Nova Scotia government tabled legislation on Monday that will ban the importation of fracking waste water.
During a bill briefing earlier in the day, Environment Minister Randy Delorey said the move is in response to the clear sentiment of Nova Scotians that they don’t want the waste from hydraulic fracturing operations in other provinces brought here.
Delorey said there was one case of this happening in 2011, when Atlantic Industrial Services of Debert treated and released water from a fracking operation in New Brunswick.
Waste water from a past fracking operation in Kennetcook continues to sit in holding ponds in Kennetcook and the treatment site in Debert. Delorey said the government will have more information on that situation soon.
“We actually do have an initiative that we believe will be able to safely treat and dispose of that waste water,” Delorey said, adding he’d provide more information after talking to the community involved and key stakeholders.
Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club, Atlantic chapter, praised the government for bringing forward the legislation.
“I’m very excited that they are following up on an election promise and that they are taking to heart the thousands of Nova Scotians who have signed our petition asking for a ban on the import (of fracking waste water),” she said, while clutching a petition several inches thick.
“This will help, I think, our entire region look at this issue.”
There is a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia right now as Cape Breton University president David Wheeler conducts an independent review. Regardless of the review’s outcome, Delorey said the legislation introduced Monday would not change.
“If other jurisdictions want to proceed with hydraulic fracturing and the waste byproduct, we believe it’s their responsibility to deal with that waste themselves.”
Delorey said he doesn’t think the move stacks the deck against the Wheeler report, saying it’s too early to know what conclusions the review panel will make.
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