Agrium receives conditional approval to extend fertilizer plant storage areaAlberta's Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) has given conditional approval to Agrium Products for an extension of the existing phosphogypsum storage stack area at its phosphate fertilizer plant near Redwater, Alberta. Conditions attached to the approval relate to improving the company's understanding of the factors contributing to fluoride emissions from the phosphogypsum stack and mitigating their impacts, as well as preparing and documenting a plan for reclamation of the phosphogypsum stack, which is to be submitted to Alberta Environment (AENV) for review by the department.
An NRCB panel reviewing the proposal concluded that overall the project is unlikely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, provided that the design specifications and mitigation measures proposed by Agrium are implemented, along with the panel's recommendations and conditions. The panel also made recommendations intended to help AENV (as the regulatory authority over the plant's operation) mitigate the environmental effects of the project.
Based on the submissions received relating to the proposal, the panel concluded that there is an economic and societal need for this project. While Agrium, in the Board's view, completed a thorough design and engineering evaluation of the proposed stack and proposed an effective design, the panel was not convinced that Agrium fully understands the source and impacts of fluoride emissions from the plant.
Accordingly, the NRCB is requiring Agrium to conduct studies to improve its understanding of the factors contributing to fluoride emissions; develop a credible procedure for estimating emissions and assessing risk; and develop and implement a mitigation plan satisfactory to AENV.
The decision follows a public hearing into the application that took place in February and March in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Participants who provided evidence at the hearing included the applicant (Agrium), participating area residents, the Capital Health Authority, AENV, Alberta Health and Wellness, and Alberta Justice. Most of the issues raised during the hearing focused on the proposal's anticipated environmental and socio-economic impacts, as welll as general land use impacts associated with industrial development in Strathcona County and the surrounding area. Noise was another significant concern expressed by area residents and the panel's decision stresses the need for Agrium to renew its commitment to resolve its neighbours' noise concerns.
Agrium has, in fact, undertaken a number of commitments which are not specifically required, but reflect its corporate commitment to continuous improvement. The NRCB expects that Agrium will adhere to all commitments it made during the consultation process, in the application and at the hearing.
The facility, situated 13 kilometres south of Redwater, Alberta, on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River, has been operating since 1969. Originally owned by Imperial Oil, it was acquired by Agrium in late 1996 from Sherritt. The plant is the sole source of phosphate fertilizer production in Canada.
Agrium applied for approval of a northward extension of its existing phosphogypsum storage stack area. AENV required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposal, and in March 2003 issued final terms of reference for the EIA. were issued March 18, 2003. The provincial Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) directs AENV to consider the written decision of the NRCB when considering an EPEA approval for a facility.