March 7, 2005

New air permit lowers SO2 limit, requires odour control plan

A renewed air quality operating permit for Lake Utopia Paper's pulp and paper mill in St George, New Brunswick will set a new, lower limit for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and will require the company, a division of JD Irving, to implement a new odour control plan. The new approval will come into effect on March 13, 2005 for a five-year period. Environment and Local Government Minister Brenda Fowlie noted that "a series of issues were raised during the public participation process, and the new approval includes additional requirements, including an increase in testing and monitoring."

As with most pulp and paper mills, the primary public concern associated with the Lake Utopia mill is odour emissions. Although the facility has maintained full compliance with its air quality permit during the current approval period, the department's regional office in Saint John received about two dozen complaints regarding odours during this period.

In most cases the best available technologies to reduce odour compound concentrations are not advanced enough to reduce odour emissions to a part per billion (ppb) level below detection. At this point, 80% odour removal is considered the best achievable reduction for most odour control systems. This level control will not eliminate odour impacts on the surrounding environment, but will reduce their frequency and severity.

Lake Utopia Paper is developing an odour prevention and control plan, and the new approval will require implementation of this plan by May 31, 2005. It is believed that this will reduce the severity and frequency of the off-site odour impact episodes.

Concerns were also expressed about SO2 emissions from the mill, particularly in view of an increase in these emissions during 2003 over 2002 levels. The increase was attributed to a greater use of heavy fuel oil by the mill during 2003 than during 2002. Nevertheless, an Air Dispersion Modeling study, completed by the company at the department's requested, indicates some predicted elevated levels of SO2 which could affect specific locations surrounding the mill. This finding will require further investigation and possible mitigation.

The new approval establishes a new, lower SO2 annual emission cap, even though the facility's actual SO2 emissions have been well below the current limit of 1,400 tonnes per year. The new limit will be a maximum of 1,260 tonnes per calendar year from all sources.

The approval will also require the installation and operation of an SO2 ambient air monitoring station off-site and downwind of the mill in the direction of prevailing summer winds, i.e. where impacts on the public are most likely.

In addition to SO2, the approval regulates other emissions, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These parameters are regulated through the annual SO2 emission cap, referencing New Brunswick's air quality regulation which limits the maximum allowable ground level concentrations for these compounds.

The renewal application underwent a full public consultation, including a 120-day public review period from late August 2004 to early January 2005. Documents supporting the review process include a facility profile, draft and intended approvals, and summaries of issues raised and responses to those issues. These may be viewed on-line at www.gnb.ca/0009/0355/0005/0005-e.html.

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