Thirty minutes after the Weir Canada manufacturing facility community information meeting was scheduled to end, dozens of Langley and South Surrey residents were still anxious to have their concerns heard, asking the panel to continue the discussion.
The meeting, which took place at East Kensington Elementary on Tuesday night (April 4), was hosted by the proponent to provide information and address concerns over an application to release emissions from a new rubber plant in South Surrey’s Campbell Heights light industrial park.
The panel included Richard Stephenson of Weir Canada, Ray Robb of Metro Vancouver and Mark Milner of Hemmera, a consultant company that carried out air quality testing for the facility, located at 18933 34A Ave.
The Weir site, which is a consolidation of two facilities previously located in Richmond and Delta, mainly manufactures rubber-lined steel pipes. They use pre-purchased rubber, and do not manufacturer any rubber of their own, Stephenson explained.
In their initial application for an air quality permit from Metro Vancouver, they projected the plant would have annual emissions of 42 tonnes. Public feedback led them to revise the projected emissions to 2.49 tonnes per year, by reducing hours of operation, investing in additional filters and eliminating a burn-off oven.
But in the eyes of many residents who spoke during a Q&A, zero emissions is the only acceptable answer.
One of the first speakers, Frank Mueggenburg, has already been vocal in his campaign against the emissions. His farm is located 900 metres from Weir’s facility, and he is concerned how his produce — which is sold to Loblaws and Sobeys — may be affected.
“To a degree, I have a little bit of empathy for you, because you’re being singled out because you are, technically, the first polluter,” he said, addressing Stephenson.
“You’re asking the community to accept industrial waste into the atmosphere, and that’s the only way to get rid of it, it would appear. I think a better opportunity is evident — rather than just working to North American standards, that we actually look and see what can be done.”
Mueggenburg said he is frustrated that the only way he has been able to obtain information is through Freedom Of Information requests, which have been time consuming. He also believes Milner’s presentation on the preliminary findings from the air quality test was done in a “poor” manner that was difficult to grasp.
“You haven’t been forthcoming, and I understand propriety information. But it makes it very hard to really take full advantage of a meeting like this when we have so many negatives. You’ve done a really nice presentation, but hazardous air pollutants and particles are missing, and that’s a big one.
“You have a list of what they are, (but) we want to know how to fix our farms, we want to know how to fix our community, we want to know where it’s going to go. That’s not illustrated here.”
Prior to the Q&A period, Milner showed several charts that listed “preliminary predicted concentrations” of substances in the emissions. They used ambient data provided by Metro Vancouver’s Surrey East and Langley stations to determine the facility’s background concentrations for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, PM-2.5 (fine particulate matter), sulphur dioxide, total PM and PM-10 (inhalable particulate matter).
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) background concentrations were established from the National Air Pollution Surveillance Program for 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, ethylbenzene and toluene.
In total, close to 100 different chemicals were looked at and modelled, Milner said, and they were all “very, very low values compared to the health objectives,” and well within Metro Vancouver guidelines.
They determined the application emissions are 0.11 tonnes/year for nitrogen oxides, 0.01 tonnes/year for sulphur dioxide, 1.78 tonnes/year for VOCs, 0.06 tonnes/year for total suspended particulate and 0.09 tonnes/year for carbon monoxide.
“I just looked at the key ones that were getting close to a concern with objectives. So we looked at the higher value ones, I wanted to list those out,” Milner said. “Yes, hazardous air pollutants were looked at, there’s three, four sources of the VOCs that was looked at as well. But again, anything that was close to the guidelines is what we want to talk about here.”
Bob Donnelly, representing the Little Campbell Watershed Society, said the community is “faced with a new dynamic,” where industrial lands in Vancouver, North Vancouver and Richmond are being redeveloped into residential high rises, pushing industry into the valley.
“People are upset. (The industries are) moving into their homes, they’re moving into their farmland, they’re moving close to their schools, they’re moving close to where they live,” he said.
“Our perspective, we’ve spent close to 60 years restoring the Little Campbell River — 60 years — to the point that now it’s the most productive salmon stream for its size in Greater Vancouver. Thousands upon thousands of people have worked on that for a long period of time. This could put us at risk.
“You’ve got to understand the anger of the people in this room, the frustration … Please think of the impact that this is going to have on the neighbourhood and make every effort to bring emissions to zero.”
Michelle Connerty, a Langley resident, warned that people in Brookswood will continue to fight, even if the air quality permit is approved.
“I don’t blame Weir at all. They’re a company, they’re trying to make money, the government’s encouraging them to be here to create jobs. But we know better and we need to do better,” she said.
“As a community we need to stand up and say, ‘No.’ This is wrong on a fundamental level, and Metro Vancouver, if you approve this, you have done wrong by us. You can’t come into our community and say just because you’re reducing harmful emissions in Richmond, that we have to take this. This is BS. And I will be out with my fellow community, with picket signs, with the media, I will do my best, for my children, I will do my very best to make sure that this does not impact me and my neighbours.”
No other community meetings are scheduled, however the public still has 30 days to submit any comments to Metro Vancouver, and Weir has the opportunity to respond to them, Robb said.
Metro Vancouver will take into account all public submissions when making their decision.
— with files from Tracy Holmes, Peace Arch News