Vale Inco’s Emissions Plan Does Not Impress Sudbury Residents – by Bill Bradley

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Bill Bradley’s article.

Vale Inco is asking the Ontario government for relief on its nickel emissions levels.

But that did not sit well with some residents at a public information meeting at the Italian Club Thursday night.

The event was hosted by the company to inform residents about how they project having difficulty meeting Regulation 419, established by the Ontario government in 2005.

“Through the regulation, the province has set newer or more stringent air quality standards,” said Ed Cocchiarella, manager of the environment, Ontario Operations of Vale Inco.

“Our measured results at monitoring stations around the perimeter of the smelter complex show we are in compliance with the standard on nickel approximately 98 per cent of the time,” said Cocchiarella.

That is because the company has embarked on an ambitious emissions reduction program over the years, resulting in a 90 per cent reduction in SO2 emissions since 1970.

When the Fluid Bed Roaster (FRB) plant was commissioned, SO2 emissions were reduced below the 2007 limit of 175 kilotonnes. Between 2005 and 2015 another reduction to 66 kilotonnes is expected, he noted.

“Out of 870 samples over the last five years, 15 were above the standard set by the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE),” he said.

The problem for Vale Inco arises over the fact the province wants the company to update their air dispersal models to give regulators a better picture of the impact of their industrial emissions.

The model calculates mathematical, theoretical concentration values to predict the impact of all emissions from the smelter on an hour to hour basis for each day of the five year period at approximately 5,000 points around the smelter. It includes sensitive locations like hospitals, schools and day cares.

“The regulation requires all sources to be considered, including road dust. This has caused a shift in our priorities and plans as we develop methods of reducing road dust,” he said.

For the smelter, the new standards take place in 2010. The company indicates that it is seeking an alternative standard for only one chemical, nickel.

“Our modelling, as required under the regulation, indicates that nickel emissions from our Copper Cliff Smelter could exceed the nickel standard when it takes effect in 2010,” he noted.

The new standard for nickel averaged over a 24 hour period is two micrograms per metre cubed of nickel daily. The company is seeking instead a standard of 15 micrograms per metre cubed of nickel daily. That higher value did not sit well with a number of residents.

Stuart Cryer felt the company has made a lot of money recently, and should be able to afford the technology necessary to meet the limits.

“The Sudbury Soil Study has brought forth quite a bit of data relating to metal contamination. It is now the right of the community to address these issues,” he said.

But Cocchiarella said it is taking time to figure where the worst problems are and how to remedy them. He said the company has recently paved 6.5 km of roads in order to reduce emissions arising from dust and initiated the FRB project as part of its overall strategy to be environmentally and economically viable.

Nursing student Tiffany Furlong said it is well known that metals such as nickel are carcinogens and that every effort should be made to reduce emissions as much as possible.

Allison Reed, from New Sudbury, said she already experiences health effects from  contaminants and has had herself tested for copper levels.

“Some people like me in the community can be very sensitive to chemicals in our immediate environment,” said Reed.

Homer Seguin, retired health and safety activist for 50 years, said he felt the meeting was too structured and not enough public participation was encouraged.

Catherine Grant, from the Air Standards and Risk Management Technology Standards Section of MOE, said the government wanted to make the process initiated by the company transparent.

Residents were encouraged to fill out questionaires at the meeting and to comment when the application is posted on the MOE’s EBR posting.

Further information on the alternative standards process can be received by calling 416-327-6600 or the local MOE office at 705-564-3212.