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REPORTING · 22nd November 2014
Walter McFarlane
Edward Hoffman and Ian Sharpe from the Ministry of Environment and Dave Marmorek were present at the Regular Meeting of Council on Monday, November 17th to present on the Kitimat Air Shed Assessment.

“The Purpose of the Kitimat Air Shed Effects Assessment was to improve our understanding of the emissions from industrial development in the Kitimat Air Shed. While this assessment included all of the industrial proposals in the Kitimat Air Shed, each proponent is required to analyze their proposed emissions through the Environmental Impact Assessment Process,” said Hoffman.

He said the proposed emissions are Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulfur Dioxide (NO2 and SO2). The study was modeled based on their proposed effects.

“The objectives of the study were to assess air emission scenarios, better understand the mitigation options, and establish a framework for research and potential issues in similar air sheds. We used a source pathway projector model which looks at the framework and the source is the location where the emissions are released and the characteristics of those emissions,” said Hoffman. “The pathway is the route that the contaminants take through the destination, through the air and water and the receptors included in the assessment were human health, vegetation, soil and surface water.”

He explained they looked at the Rio Tinto Alcan Modernization, four proposed LNG’s, Kitimat Clean, Gas turbine electrical facilities which BC Hydro is looking at, increases to marine shipping and future increases to road and rail traffic.

Council was shown the results from the study and a table that would show the number of respiratory incidents which would occur to people with asthma and crio-pulmonary disease. “What they found from that detailed analysis is if you compare the outcomes under the highest scenario, H or I with 0 emissions, not the current situation but with 0 emissions, there would be a 1.8% increase in the number of respiratory responses,” said Marmorek.

He explained this would lead to one more respiratory incident for a person with breathing difficulties per year, but only in the service centre section of Kitimat. In other parts of Kitimat, there would be a 0.4% increase which would work out to an extra respiratory response every five years. Council was told that credence was placed on long term exposure rather than high concentrations which occur less frequently.

Marmorek talked through the expected results on soil, vegetation and lakes.

It was explained Kitimat, in the high scenarios would have an NO2 similar to Prince George, downtown Vancouver and Burnaby. As for SO2, it would be between Castlegar and Trail.

“The MOE Conclusions from the Kitimat Airshed Study says potential impacts from NO2 and SO2 Emissions are manageable. Treatment will be considered for new industrial emissions, SO2 emissions from RTA will continue to be managed in accordance with the existing smelter permit and ongoing monitoring of air soils and water will support further refinement of our understanding of the potential impacts of NO2 and SO2 in the Kitimat area,” said Hoffman.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know if the presenters had an opportunity to talk to Greg Knox from Skeena Wild. He pointed out they were not showing the same level of concern. He was told the answer was no, although they have viewed the other’s presentations. They will be talking with Knox.

They looked at sources of particulate matter from combustion sources. They also looked at fine particulate matter from dust. There is one they were concerned about that occurs in the atmosphere. Council was told as they learned more, their understanding about how to manage it would grow.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know if the study would be on going and will other particulates be studied over time. He was told the answer was yes. Many of these contaminants are expecting to drop from the Modernized Smelter. If more businesses were coming to Kitimat, they would have to go through a similar study.

Councillor Phil Germuth asked why they would not require the best possible scrubbers to keep the air clean right from the start.

The response was there is an appeal of the limit to cause the SO2 to go from 27 tonnes a day to 42 tonnes per day from the modernized smelter. “That appeal at the very basis is about whether or not scrubbers should be implemented from day one or whether we should use the signs of impact assessment to determine whether or not scrubbing is required for the protection of human health or the environment,” said Sharp

He asked for some patients while the study commences and the people from the environmental appeal board will come to the conclusion. Germuth asked if the appeal fails, there will be no scrubbers. He was told the panel has the right to make the decision on the appeal. They can make their own requirements or return the decision back to the director with instructions about how to do this again, only differently.

Germuth asked if the study looked at why SO2 Scrubbers were put in around the world but not in Kitimat. Marmorek stated there were 220 operating aluminium smelters in the world and 12 had scrubbers. Sharp stated they would have to look into the smelters and the circumstances and why the other smelters did not employ the scrubbers.

However, there were a number of opportunities for Rio Tinto Alcan to reduce their reduction. They could manage their coke supply and can reduce their emissions if it is necessary.

Councillor Edwin Empinado stated the river is very important to Kitimat, and it rains a lot here. He thanked them for setting the policy rather than depending on the corporate decision. He asked why RTA was not required to use quality coke in the smelter.

Marmorek told him they were not going deeply into emission reduction technologies or options, it was to do a scope of the assessment of what the impacts might be to the four receptors should there be industrial development in the Kitimat air shed.

Empinado stated he had hoped the study’s conclusion was on the cleanest scenario. The response he got was to look through the study, find out what it does and does not conclude. He was told there was a summery in section 7.

Goffinet stated RTA is proposing a Kitimat Air Shed management group which would involve the ministry, community and proponents looking at the impacts on what could occur. There is also a proposed and a health study. He asked if the ministry is looking at the health monitoring of health indicators in Kitimat. He was told they are in conversation on how this health study could occur. He was also told Groups like the one proposed like RTA exist around the province and such a grou0p would be good in the Kitimat area.

Germuth stated no one is trying to delay the start-up of the smelter, however, people were feeling the scrubbers were the best technology which could be installed after start up without delaying the production. He asked how much weight was given to the input by Northern Health who asked to have the scrubbers installed in the best interest of public health.

He was told the health authorities are about prevention and he would expect nothing less from them. They also had other recommendations, four of which are being acted upon. Those were listed off for Council.

Germuth asked if the study came up with a number for the SO2 which is not acceptable. He suggested they could be holding back other industries who could wish to come to Kitimat but could be held to a different standard or find their SO2 emissions too high for the Kitimat Valley. The response was no, the results are within the boundaries set by the study. They offered to get together with him later to describe how they would put together another study.

The current study looks at the RTA Smelter, an oil refinery and the LNG’s. Most of these are proposed. If there was another proposal, they would require them to do their own assessment and the government could add an addition to the study. The study was a base which could be added too or reanalyzed.

Feldhoff wanted to know why there was hardly any pollution listed on the chart. He was told the Kitimat Clean Proposal has infrastructure associated with it which is revolutionary pollution control technology. They took the numbers which were given to them and put them into the study. They were told the numbers were credible by a petroleum engineer from Victoria who was interacting with them.

Germuth asked if there was an incentive the government could offer a proponent to install the best pollution control technology available. He was told they have no knowledge of that.

Monaghan asked if the residue which comes from the scrubbers could be put in the ocean and what happens to it. She was told there were a number of technologies which were reported to them. She was told about dry scrubbing and wet scrubbing technologies. With salt water scrubbing, the effluent would go back to the ocean so people would have to determine if the effluent would have an impact on the ocean. It was said the work had to be done once the appeal had been made.

Germuth asked if the report had explained the ones that go into the water do not have an impact on the environment. He was told the studies were done appropriately and that part of the report had been very carefully worded. There were no further questions so the presenters returned to their seats.