January 16, 2006

New Brunswick extends air permits for Irving, PCI Chemicals facilities

The New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government has extended the expiry date of the current air quality operating approval for PCI Chemicals Canada of Dalhousie to March 1, 2006. The permit was originally scheduled to expire on January 1, 2006. The extension is necessary to enable the department to finalize the required documents and complete the remaining steps of the renewal process for PCI Chemicals, in accordance with the provincial Clean Air Act's public participation regulation.

PCI Chemicals owns and operates two chemical manufacturing plants in Dalhousie. The mercury cell chlor-alkali plant produces approximately 31,000 tonnes per year of chlorine and 35,000 tonnes per year of sodium hydroxide, and has the capability of producing secondary products such as hydrogen chloride and sodium hypochlorite. First commissioned in the early 1960s, it is the only mercury cell operation in Canada.

The sodium chlorate plant, commissioned in the 1990s, is a state-of-the-art facility producing approximately 22,000 tonnes per year of sodium chlorate.

Potential air quality-related environmental impacts from these facilities include: 1) mercury emissions from various vents; 2) fugitive mercury emissions from the landfill site and water treatment lagoon; 3) chlorine emissions from specific unit operations; 4) combustion exhaust gas emissions from the heat energy systems; 5) odour emissions from various vents and stacks; 6) noise emissions from the facility operation; and 7) accidental release of ozone depleting substances from both plants' cooling systems.

A submission received during the public comment period raised concerns relating to emissions of mercury, ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and other emissions, as well as the facility's compliance record.

The PCI Chemicals facility is currently operating in compliance with all applicable provincial and federal regulatory standards pertaining to mercury emissions. The company has reduced its annual mercury emissions by 36% since 2000 and has the third lowest mercury emissions, based on a comparison with eight out of nine operating mercury cell chlor-alkali plants in North America.

PCI Chemicals uses HCFC-22, a known ODS, in the process of liquefying manufactured chlorine gas. The provincial ozone-depleting substances regulation requires annual leak tests of ODS-containing equipment and the new permit, now in draft form, will have a new requirement for PCI Chemicals to conduct monthly leak tests on all equipment in contact with HCFC-22. This increased frequency of leak testing is intended to focus more attention on the HCFC-22 in an effort to reduce releases from the equipment.

The department has also extended Irving Paper's existing air quality operating approval for its Saint John pulp and paper mill to March 31, 2006. The approval was due to expire on January 14, 2006.

In this case, the extension is necessary as a result of recent public response during the comment period that is part of the public participation process for the air permit renewal. The extra time will allow the department to incorporate this response into the process, finalize the required documents and complete the remaining steps of the renewal process.

Issues raised during the public comment period focused mainly on air emissions, and the department's response notes that the facility has been operating consistently within regulatory limits.

The Saint John mill was initially commissioned in 1964 as Rothesay Paper; the Irving Group purchased the facility in 1981, renaming it Irving Paper.

The mill produces approximately 1,000 tonnes per day of pulp from 100 % softwood, using the thermal mechanical pulping (TMP) process. Irving then combines the TMP pulp with bleached kraft pulp and clay fillers to manufacture approximately 1,100 tonnes per day of paper, including standard newsprint, directory paper and specialty grades for flyers and magazines.

An expansion in 1991gave the mill the largest TMP process line in North America. This was followed by upgrades in 1999 enabling the mill to produce a higher-grade specialty paper.

More information on the public review process is available at Environment and Local Government offices or on-line at www.gnb.ca/0009/0355/0005/ (for PCI Chemicals) and www.gnb.ca/0009/0355/0005/I-3743_E.html (for Irving Paper).

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