When Dave Manzer looks down across the valley from his home at Terra Ridge every morning he notices a blue smog of wood smoke trapped at low altitude. The smog is either creeping toward town or down the lake, depending on which way the air is moving, he says,
While Manzer alleges the Pinnacle Pellet plant is the biggest culprit because it is “overloading the smoke emission system,” he also points to diesel engine emissions from the CN yard and other industry as adding to the problem.
“People are so used to sawmills and mud flying around that they don’t seem to complain about it,” Manzer says, adding he wishes more people would speak out.
“There is a way to prevent the irritating smoke by cutting back the production rate or improve the exhaust system to eliminate these harmful emissions. This plant was quiet and clean when it first started up but it has been enlarged at least twice since then,” Manzer says.
He says he also sees smoke emitting from local sawmills, but says he rarely sees blue smoke coming from them.
“It’s the blue smoke that I’m mostly concerned about. It’s wood smoke and it’s fine particle,” Manzer explains.
One of his neighbours, Lucy Hauk, says her deck often has ash and chips on it.
“It’s so light that it can move up here quickly,” Hauk says, adding she thinks the light industry zone has exceeded its limitations and is now heavy industry.
Pinnacle’s corporate safety and environmental officer Lorne Davies says the company is operating in compliance with its permits from the Ministry of Environment. When there is blue smoke, it’s a result of when the processes are changed or the plant is shut down and started up again.
“There’s always going to be a transition when we’re changing temperatures. But that’s not saying we’re the only supplier. In the morning there’s blue smoke sitting there from the whole valley and there are other sources, whether it’s the sawmills. I can show you pictures of blue smoke coming from the west,” Davies says.
The fact the blue smoke sits directly in front of the pellet plant doesn’t mean it’s just coming from the facility, he explains.
Davies points out that on a recent morning he drove into Williams Lake and saw blue smoke hovering in the valley and immediately wondered what was going on at the plant.
As he drove over the overpass he saw blue smoke “puking” out of the diesel locomotives in the nearby CN yard.
Retired CN employee Ralph Kohnke also lives at Terra Ridge and says the problem with the locomotives is the fact they idle all night and the carbon builds up.
Kohnke explains that a battery would solve the problem, but it’s an expensive option.
So far there are no federal requirements for a permit related to emissions from diesel locomotives in Canada, but that will change some time this year.
Transport Canada is currently developing new emissions regulations under the Railway Safety Act to reduce air-pollutant emissions from the Canadian rail sector.
“These regulations will be aligned with those of the United States and emission standards for nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and smoke,” says Maryse Durette, media relations with Transport Canada, adding it is expected the proposed Canadian Locomotive Emissions Regulations will be finalized in 2012.
When it comes to Pinnacle, Davies says the company isn’t perfect, but works hard at its street cleaning and watering programs.
“We’ve got a road-dust management plan where we’ve put up screens to make sure our fibres are not blowing around. We actually even sweep the parking lot of Canadian Tire because they’re our neighbour,” Davies says.
The other day he heard someone was told a sewer smell up at Prosperity Ridge was due to Pinnacle. Davies explains there is nothing in the plant’s process that smells like sewer.
There is also additional pollution control on the scrubber stack at the plant. In the past, the company has collected dust fall in canisters placed around the perimeter of the plant site. The plant is awaiting approval to install a $10,000 monitor on the roof of the fire hall.
Manzer says at this time last year locals signed a petition that prompted Pinnacle to eradicate some noise issues.