Closing date nears for comments on burning rail ties

The public comment period for Atlantic Power’s application to increase the amount of rail ties it can burn in Williams Lake is approaching.

The public comment period for Atlantic Power’s application to increase the amount of rail ties it can burn at its power plant in Williams Lake is fast approaching.

Saturday, Nov. 14, is the deadline for submitting opinions on the matter.

Residents have already raised health concerns about the impact burning creosote-treated rail ties will have on air quality in the valley, about the storage of the ties and possible leakage into the ground.

During an open house in July, the company said during a test burn of 100 per cent rail ties in 2010, pollutants were either destroyed at the 2000 C temperatures in the boilers or removed using the plant’s environmental controls.

Both Williams Lake City Council and the Cariboo Regional District Board said they will support Atlantic Power’s application if it receives approval from the Ministry of Environment.

When Atlantic Power purchased the plant in 2011, the plant had not been using rail ties as fuel for a year.

Now as the company looks to renew its agreement with BC Hydro, which expires in 2018, it said it is considering shredded rail ties as an option to secure its fuel supply as it is anticipated its usual source of wood waste will decrease with the reduction of the annual allowable cut.

The company said other alternative fuels such as roadside logging debris and untreated waste wood are also being considered.

In its application Atlantic Power is asking to be able to increase its rail tie burning to a maximum of 50 per cent, although Terry Shannon, the company’s environmental manager of western operations, said in an earlier interview it is anticipated the plant would burn up to 15 to 25 per cent rail ties on average.

Although the public comment period ends Nov. 14, the province’s Environmental Management Act indicates the director may take into consideration any information received after the 30-day period if the director has not made a decision on the permit, approval or operational certificate.