Small town considering buying shares in Rio Tinto Alcan to force them to emit less sulphur dioxide – by Andrew Kurjata (CBC News B.C. – December 20, 2017)

The District of Kitimat wants the company to install saltwater scrubbers at the local smelter

The District of Kitimat is considering buying shares in Rio Tinto Alcan in a bid to force the company to install saltwater scrubbers at their aluminum smelter in northwest B.C.

There are fears in the community that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions could have negative health and environmental impacts, although air monitoring stations in Kitimat have indicated SO2 levels do not generally exceed acceptable health standards.

Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth said there are still two primary concerns: the long-term health impacts of even low-level SO2 emissions and the fear that the existing monitoring stations don’t measure SO2 levels in outlying outdoor recreation areas.

“[People] want to go outside,” he said of his community of roughly 8,000 people. Council has directed staff to evaluate the cost of purchasing shares in Rio Tinto in order to voice their concerns directly at investor meetings.

Controversial upgrade

In 2015, Rio Tinto modernized its Kitimat smelter but attracted controversy when the B.C. government gave the company permission to increase SO2 emissions by as much as 56 per cent.

Residents of the community, including Rio Tinto employees, urged the company to install scrubbers, which use saltwater to decrease the amount of SO2 released.

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