If it wasn’t safe 10 years ago, it’s not safe now.
That’s the message many residents in the Brookfield have about the province approving a pilot project allowing the nearby Lafarge Canada plant to burn tires.
At the end of July, they held a protest in Victoria Square – just outside of Divert Nova Scotia offices – in opposition to the project.
“We don’t want to see it get started,” said Lydia Sorflaten, a member of Citizens Against Burning of Tires (CABOT) who lives 500 metres from the plant. “If they’re investing $2 million to get it started, who is going to stop it after it’s started? This needs to be stopped now.”
Sorflaten said Divert Nova Scotia was invited to the event, however declined via an email.
The province’s environment minister recently approved the one-year pilot project, saying the approval was “based on the science and evidence” associated with the application, as well as public feedback.
In a news released, Iain Rankin said the pilot would “confirm if the company can reduce current carbon emission levels” at the plant in Brookfield.
Sorflaten said the project was “fully developed, funded, and brought forward” in smooth manner, in secret, and without consultation from the community.
Burning tires, she said, is often seen as a way to reduce relying on high carbon fuels, but there are things not being taken into consideration, such as high chlorine levels and heavy metals.
“When burned, they give off dioxins and furans when (the tires) are burned in the kiln,” she said.
Those dioxins and furans are released in the atmosphere and is concentrated mainly in animal fat. Then, those chemicals get into humans’ systems, often causing cancer.
Looking at other countries, such as Europe, where tires are burned, there are a number of differences.
“The tires are never whole,” said Sorflaten. “They’re shredded and burned in state-of-the-art kilns. They need to equip their kiln to burn properly. Where’s the directive here (for Lafarge) to upgrade their equipment?”
Resident Jim Harpell can see the plant from his deck and has had concerns since the idea was first floated a decade ago.
“My concerns now are the same as they were 10 years ago,” he said. “We’ve gathered scientific papers from all over the world that shows this is just not a safe practice. It shouldn’t ever be a question.”
Harpell said he has inquired as to what changes have been made to Lafarge’s kiln over the last 10 years. He’s also asked what new scientific evidence is available now to make burning tires safe.
“The answer to both was nothing,” he said.
“If it wasn’t safe 10 years ago when the equipment was 10 years older, and nothing new has changed, it’s a no brainer to me. It’s a smack across the side of the head.”
As policy director at the Ecology Action Centre, Mark Butler said the concerns he has are numerous, but mainly air quality issues and taking tires from recycling to burn them.
“Nova Scotia has been a leader in recycling. To take the tires from recycling to burn them is a major paradigm shift,” he said. “They’re straying from their mandate.”
Larry Harrison, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, attended the protest, saying he wanted to be there because he hadn’t spoken out publicly about the issue yet.
“I’ve talked to people in the background and thought it was time to say something,” he said, adding some people have said he’s in favour of the project where he’s been mum about it.
“I am (in favour) if it’s safe. But if it’s not safe, I’m not.”
Harrison said he’s giving Lafarge the benefit of the doubt at the moment.
“If they can prove to me there is nothing harmful coming out of the stack…but if something comes out of that stack that shouldn’t, I will fight it tooth and nail. The health and safety of the environment and the people are foremost.”
The one-year pilot project approval includes terms and conditions to reduce environmental impacts and protect public health.
Those conditions are:
– limiting tire-derived fuel to 15 per cent of total daily input and no more than 20 tonnes per day
– forming a community liaison committee to keep residents informed of the project’s status and address their questions
– developing a complaints resolution plan.
Lafarge must submit plans for a number of activities associated with the pilot project and apply for a temporary industrial approval to operate the pilot project.
Conditions of the required plans include:
– tire storage and waste management
– air dispersion modelling, which is a mathematical simulation of how air pollutants disperse in the atmosphere
– continuous monitoring of emissions
– stack testing before and after the pilot begins
– emergency response if there is a malfunction of the kiln.