LETTER: We don’t want the title ‘railway tie burning capital of B.C.’

I’m reluctantly taking time on a Saturday evening to perform what I consider a civic duty of a responsible citizen.


I’m reluctantly taking time on a Saturday evening to perform what I consider a civic duty of a responsible citizen: expressing my concerns for the community and the health of its residents, present and future, due to the proposed burning of creosote soaked railway ties by Atlantic Power in their generation facility.

The company proposes burning from five per cent to 50 per cent preserved railway ties : 25 per cent ties would amount to 1.2  million ties per year; 50 per cent ties would be 2.4 million annually, although the company states ties burned would comprise 15 to 25 per cent on average of mass burned, 50 per cent would be allowed under the requested permit.

Creosote preservative is a derivative of coal tar, and contains known carcinogens: benzene, toluene, phenols, etc.

I believe the processing of such railway ties by Atlantic Power — shipping, storing, chipping, burning and disposition of ash residue — would have a deleterious effect on air quality in Williams Lake and area, and subsequently degrade the health of residents.

Both the U.S. and Canada jointly issued a risk assessment advising not burning creosote containing wood because toxic chemicals may be produced in smoke and ash.

In 2009 a similar proposal to burn preserved ties was made by a company in Kamloops.

This scheme was immediately opposed by a unanimous vote by Kamloops City Council advising the Province to deny the permit.

Additionally, there was a groundswell of opposition by the local populace.

Unlike Kamloops Council’s proactive action in defense of that city’s environment, our local Council is expressing benign indifference — leaving all discussion to the Ministry of Environment and avoiding action to protect health of residents.

Atlantic Power pays property tax and employees 32 full time employees; an undeniable benefit to our community.

However, this company also consumes 35 per cent of our treated, potable water, from an aquifer of finite capacity.

The additional environmental degradation by proposed tie burning is indefensible on a cost-benefit basis, in my view, when compared with the health of 11,000 people. Our health is worth it — we can’t drink or breathe dollars.

I humbly suggest that residents take interest in this matter for the sake of their health and that of their children and grandchildren.

Our community has periodically been named the crime capital of BC ; let’s not become the railway tie burning capital.

John Pickford

Williams Lake