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Public has say on incinerator project



SNC-Lavalin addresses concerns over pollution, lack of consultation

SNC-Lavalin met the public in Squamish this week, to discuss the company’s proposed construction of a waste-to-energy incinerator in the Cheeye Fan.

The company had intended to consult the public and Squamish council from the beginning, but the controversy and speculation over the incinerator erupted before the SNC-Lavalin had a chance to introduce the project to the community.

"We need to get the facts straight, because a lot of people up in that neck of the woods haven’t," SNC-Lavalin vice president Ted Skodje said last week.

The incinerator, a SNC-Lavalin invention, will burn up to 75,000 tons (67,500 metric tonnes) of wood waste each year, generating approximately three and a half megawatts of power for B.C. Hydro. According to Skodje, the company has had two incinerators operating in Minnesota for 22 years now, and from an emissions standpoint, "it’s the cleanest there is."

Says Skodje, "This isn’t something that’s at the embryo stage we’re trying out, this thing’s proven and it works."

A group of Squamish residents are concerned that not enough is known about the project. Squamish council didn’t even evaluate the incinerator, or hold public hearings, because the proposed site has already been zoned for this kind of project.

Although the initial plan was to accept household waste and sewage sludge, as well as wood waste, the company has decided to focus on wood waste. The company hasn’t ruled out the idea that the plant could take other types of waste in the future, but that would require permits from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.

There is also concern that wood waste could include wood treated with cyanide and copper, plywood that is treated with formaldehyde, railway ties, and painted or stained wood.

The Squamish Nation has already said that they won’t support the incinerator, and Squamish residents have formed a "Clean Future Team" to look into the project. At this point, the biggest problem for local residents is the lack of information, consultation, and assurances that the plant won’t expand operations in the future to take undesirable waste.

Whistler Councillor Ken Melamed has voiced his concern that the incinerator could adversely affect air quality in Whistler.

"We’re going to be upwind of this thing, and we just don’t know that much about it. Is it green technology? They say it is, but we need to look at this closer to see if and how it could affect us."

The Clean Future Team has over 40 members, some pro-incinerator, some anti-incinerator, and some fence sitters, and plans to hold regular meetings to discuss developments. The second meeting for the group is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 8 p.m., and will be held at the Brackendale Art Gallery.

According to Skodje, the initial groundwork is scheduled to begin in March. The incinerator would occupy approximately five hectares of B.C. Hydro property and feature a 15 metre stack.

According to a SNC-Lavalin fact sheet on the project:

• The Heuristic EnvirOcycler is the most environmentally friendly process and cost effective means of waste disposal on the market today.

• The two-stage combustion produces heat of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is used to generate electricity.

• The proposed facility in Squamish will be the most environmentally friendly process for waste management and energy recovery in the province today. Any emissions from this facility will be in complete compliance with the provincial regulatory requirements.

• Wood waste that goes to the landfill produces landfill gas, which is 50 per cent methane and 50 per cent carbon dioxide.

• The Heuristic EnvirOcycler eliminates methane production and reduces the amount of particulate produced by open burning (e.g. slash piles at logging sites) by up to 200 times.

• It will produce just under 58,000 tons (52,200 metric tonnes) of carbon dioxide per year, which is significantly more than the same quantity from landfilled wood, and on par with open burning. However, carbon dioxide derived from wood is not considered to be a greenhouse gas because the same amount would be released by the tree as it rots. "The amount of biomass-produced carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is considered to be a constant. It is carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – that contributes to global warming, not carbon dioxide produced by the burning of biomass."

• According to SNC-Lavalin, the EnvirOcycler will improve the air quality in Squamish by 30 per cent.

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