LAVINGTON - A pellet plant will be up and running in Lavington within the year, says the president of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group.
According to Leroy Reitsma, site preparation work is underway and will wrap up in roughly 10-15 weeks. After that, the company will apply for a building permit and start constructing the plant, which is expected to take seven months. The plant, which will produce pellet fuel from waste sawdust and shavings from the adjacent Tolko sawmill, was given approval from the Ministry of Environment in December and a development permit from the District of Coldstream in January.
The project has been intensely scrutinized by a local citizens group but Reitsma insists the plant will actually improve air quality.
“I think what the community is going to see is not only a reduction in emissions but also a reduction in fugitive dust,” Reitsma says.
The overall reductions are expected to come when the Tolko sawmill hooks up to the pellet plant’s superior filtration system, thereby lowering its emissions. Reitsma adds that paving work will decrease the amount of fugitive dust in the area.
“(The technology) is at the leading edge of what is available today to make this the lowest emission signature that you can possibly achieve,” Reitsma says.
He’s confident there are no health or safety concerns to the public, including the staff and children at Lavington Elementary School.
“There’s a whole bunch of things we’ve tried to explain to the public but for whatever reason there’s certain members that haven’t understood what we’re trying to explain,” Reitsma says.
More detailed information about projected emissions levels can be found online in an assessment report as well as in an information package prepared by Pinnacle.
A group called Lavington is for Everyone (LIFE) insists this is the wrong place for the pellet plant, and has turned to the District of Coldstream and Environment Minister Mary Polak with its concerns. The group also sought support from West Coast Environmental Law, which gave them a grant to help with legal fees.
“One of our hopes is that this type of funding can let people assess their options and make sure the conversation happens,” staff counsel Andrew Gage says. “We’d like to see communities feeling like they can ask questions about public health and make sure they have the legal tools to do that.”
The law group hands out numerous grants every year to aid community groups in resolving environmental disputes. While the money is used to hire lawyers outside of West Coast Environmental Law, Gage is aware of the situation in Lavington.
“They (LIFE) are raising concerns that I think are legitimate. A big concern is the impact on the local school,” Gage says. “Whenever a kid’s health is involved, it’s a good idea to look at these things seriously.”
Moving forward, Gage says LIFE still has at least one option left—filing an appeal with B.C.’s Environmental Appeal Board over the Ministry’s decision to issue Pinnacle an air discharge permit.
Members of LIFE could not be reached for comment prior to publishing.
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