New Westminster News Leader

‘Plans to control coal dust must be in place’

Fraser Port, across from New Westminster, could become the site of a coal depot. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Fraser Port, across from New Westminster, could become the site of a coal depot.

Port Metro Vancouver insists the Fraser Surrey Docks must come up with a plan to control dust before approval will be given to a proposed coal transfer facility across the river from New Westminster.

“Any fugitive dust from any marine site we want to make sure there is mitigation put in place. We ensure that our terminal operators are moving proactively and have mitigation measures in place. We do that for all of our bulk operators,” said the port authority’s director of planning and development Jim Crandles at Monday’s city council meeting.

“Any time you deal with a material in bulk, it generates dust. It’s the major issue in any terminal whether it be grain, coal, cement. The key to it is ensuring there are appropriate mitigation measures on site in the handling.”

Fraser Surrey Docks is proposing to build a facility to transfer coal from trains originating in the U.S. directly to barges that would travel the Fraser River to Texada Island where it would be put in freighters for shipment overseas.

A report to council earlier in the day outlined some of the city’s concerns about possible dust since Queensborough is 1,500 metres north of the facility and the Quayside is 2,000 metres away.

“[While] the prevailing winds in the area are generally easterly and westerly, occasional southerly winds could increase these levels near New Westminster at times,” said the report that went on to say in its conclusion, “While the Port informs that the environmental and health impacts from the construction and operation of the facility are manageable, this will depend on the degree to which identified controls will be applied.”

Crandles said the port authority has received concerns from many corners about the environmental impacts of the facility. It has been criticized for its review process being strictly internal, a concern raised by Coun. Bill Harper.

“The port is the reviewing agency for this proposal. We work within a mandate, which is within facilitating trade. It has a land use plan that says this is a major terminal,” said Crandles in an interview Tuesday. “[Going to city councils] proves that it’s not an internal process. We have been very clear about the process from when we started this. Most will know we sent out a notification to 3,200 residents in the area, to the municipalities affected and First Nations, long before the opponents of dealing with coal came to the forefront.”

Crandles pointed out to council the port recently approved another coal expansion project at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver and has posted the conditions for the environment online.

“Whatever the decision will be [for Fraser Surrey Docks] we will make sure that is transparent as well,” said Crandles.

The concerns raised in the city report will be conveyed to Fraser Surrey Docks and Port Metro Vancouver staff.

“Other environmental concerns related to the proposal include the potential for the water and soil contamination and accidental spillage of coal into the Fraser River,” said the report. “Although an Environmental Management Plan calls for procedures to reduce these risks and to monitor air, water and soil quality regularly, this is a large industrial site and the proposed project is not likely to benefit the local environment or wildlife habitat. The city has limited jurisdiction with respect to mitigating potential environmental impacts.”

Crandles said Fraser Surrey Docks’ proposal calls for up to four million tonnes of coal per year to arrive by train from Wyoming.

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