Atlantic Power’s request to burn more rail ties at its plant in Williams Lake will receive the Cariboo Regional District’s support pending test results meet provincial environmental standards.
Earlier this month, Atlantic Power submitted an amendment to its permit to increase the amount of rail ties it burns from five per cent to up to 50 per cent to allow the Williams Lake facility to supplement diminished sawmill waste wood.
“We should expect a follow up letter with results from the burn tests and clarity on the storage which are the two community issues that we should be monitoring very clearly,” said Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson before the CRD board voted unanimously to receive the request during its regular meeting last Friday. “Then pending good information, just like we’ve done with Gibraltar and Mount Polley, we can take a position of support or not.”
Director Joan Sorley said her recollection of the presentation to the board by Atlantic Power was that the rail ties were not going to impact the emissions.
“I really think this is the safest way to get rid of these rail ties that are all over the place,” Sorley said.
Mayor Walt Cobb said the City has endorsed Atlantic Power’s application pending the same ministry approval.
Director John Massier said he is still a little nervous about the company going from five to 50 per cent.
In its application, the company said depending on operations, it anticipates burning 15 to 25 per cent rail ties on an average annual basis, but if needed would like the ability to burn a 50/50 mix of rail ties and traditional wood fibre on a periodic basis.
The plan is to store the ties in an area on site that will be controlled for runoff, said Terry Shannon, Environmental Manager of Western Operations for Atlantic Power Friday.
As the ties arrive they will be loaded into the chipper and then stored.
“When they were stored and chipped downtown it was a mess,” Shannon said. “We’ve taken that as a lesson and plan to control all the operations on the plant grounds.”
The plant has a storm water management plan to monitor and test water runoff and turn over the results to the province, Shannon added.
“They are not presently monitored for parameters that are rail tie related, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the ministry says we want you to update your monitoring equipment to include rail tie parameters to make sure there is no rail tie runoff and we will accommodate that request once the ministry makes it,” Shannon said.
CRD director Byron Kemp said with the decline of the forest industry, his worry is the plant will have to reduce the amount of electricity it produces because of there will be less wood waste available.
The public has until Nov. 14 to make comments on the application.