April 17, 2006

Waterkeeper files objection to Lafarge proposal for alternative fuel use

A proposal by Lafarge Canada to burn various types of waste at its Bath cement plant in Loyalist, Ontario, near Kingston has led to a request by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a prominent Ontario environmental group, for a public hearing on the proposal under part V of the provincial Environmental Protection Act.

Lafarge Canada has applied for air emission and waste disposal site approvals under the EP Act allowing the company to use scrap tires, non-recyclable plastics, animal bone meal, biomass-type materials such as agricultural and pulp and paper byproducts, and pelletized non-hazardous municipal waste, as alternative fuels for its cement production facility. The company currently uses coal, coke, natural gas and oil to heat its cement kiln to temperatures of approximately 1,450*C and is seeking to reduce its consumption of these non-renewable resources.

Its proposal calls for a maximum of 100 tonnes per day of these waste materials to be used as fuel and sets limits on the quantities that would be stored on-site at any given time. The materials would be sourced from Ontario and Quebec as well as from a number of Great Lakes and New England states, including New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, plus New Jersey.

The waste materials would be injected into the kiln either at the mid-point, where temperatures are around 1,050*C or at the kiln burner pipe where they are 1,450*C or higher.

Both applications were posted on the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) registry (reference Nos IA03E1902 and IA04E0466). Lafarge originally posted its waste application in 2003 but agreed to revise it after Environment Minister Laurel Broten denied public requests that the application be made subject to an individual environmental assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. The Minister concluded that the environmental concerns raised in response to the original application were best addressed through part V of the EP Act.

Accordingly, Waterkeeper is asking the Ministry of Environment to deny both approval applications and instead require that a public hearing on the proposal be held under part V of the Act. Its submission claims that:

(a) The current applications for approval under section 9 (air) and section 27 (waste) of the EP Act mischaracterize this incineration program, thereby circumventing due public process;

(b) The applications are vague and incomplete, for example omitting definitions of the terms "scrap tires" and "non-recyclable plastics" as well as any indication of specific sources of municipal waste and how the waste materials would be transported to the facility; and

(c) Approving this project would undermine provincial policy in the areas of energy and waste, including the MOE's own Statement of Environmental Values.

Under Ontario law, a hearing must be held if a project uses the waste of 1,500 or more people. But Waterkeeper says Lafarge eventually hopes to increase its use of municipal waste while avoiding a hearing.

Citing letters from the company to the MOE, Waterkeeper president and environmental lawyer Mark Mattson said, "The amount of municipal waste Lafarge plans to burn is right at the threshold for a mandatory hearing, and there's an understanding that the figure could increase in the future, and the public would be shut out."

The group is also concerned about increased metals, dioxin, and particulate pollution on eastern Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is an environmental organization based in Toronto; it is part of a global alliance led by Robert F Kennedy, Jr. The Waterkeeper submission may be viewed on-line at www.waterkeeper.ca. More information is also available from Mark Mattson, 416/861-1237.

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