Quay concerned about coal dust
James Crosty sprayed some Windex on a clean cloth and then wiped it along his white Quayside condo balcony railing picking up quite a bit of soot with just a short stroke.
The Quay, said Crosty, already has to deal with emissions from trains, trucks and tugboats, and smoke from the Burnaby waste-to-energy incinerator operated by Metro Vancouver. Now the possibility of adding coal dust floating across the Fraser River, and from the nearby railway tracks, has the former mayoralty candidate and Quayside Community Board (QCB) concerned.
The self-proclaimed 'citizen's advocate,' with the board's blessing, has launched a campaign to oppose the Fraser Surrey Dock's application to Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) to add a facility to annually transfer up to four million metric tonnes of coal from trains to barges. The docks are two kilometres directly south of the Quay and even closer to Queensborough.
"We have wind all the time down here at the river. Imagine when it gets hot and what it will mean to containment [of the dust]," said Crosty as a small, tattered Canadian flag on the balcony next door flew full out with the wind coming directly from the south.
The residents association is calling for Quaysiders to make their feelings known, especially since Port Metro Vancouver has limited requirements for public consultation.
The proposal calls for coal to be shipped from mines in Wyoming and other states via the Burlington North Santa Fe Railway before being put on a barge for transfer to Asia-bound freighters.
After researching the issue, he believes the reason the Americans are sending the coal north—besides the fact it is a more direct route to China—is there are too many regulatory roadblocks for it down south with opposition growing in Idaho, Montana and Washington state.
"It's being rejected in the United States. The swell of concern is now outweighing the benefits," said Crosty. "This is deadlier than a pipeline, this is airborne."
Crosty said coal contains arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, nickel and other toxic materials. He noted one report said each rail car releases 500 to 2,000 pounds of coal dust over the course of its journey. That means a 125-car train could release up to 250,000 pounds of coal per trip. He also pointed out dust gets heavier in the rain, which could be even more of an issue in a climate like the Lower Mainland's. He believes there's particular danger for residents who have respiratory problems.
"I'm seriously just nipping at the edges of information that is out there," said Crosty. "Nobody in New Westminster has raised any bells on this."
He's also concerned because PMV recently approved an expansion of Neptune Terminal's coal transfer facility in North Vancouver. The rail route to Neptune, he said, runs right through New Westminster. At the QCB's February meeting, a Quay resident reported seeing about eight open rail cars loaded with coal sitting in a rail yard adjacent to Stewardson Way.
Although there has been a campaign organized by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC), Crosty criticized the local, provincial and the federal politicians in New Westminster for not speaking out against it.
"They won't answer any of the questions. They're silent on this issue … (City councillors) have no trouble fighting shark fins and they won't fight anything that affect humans. It crosses all political lines," said Crosty, who won't rule out running as an independent in the upcoming provincial election. "They don't need to do the Surrey Dock terminal. The idea here is we have to see if we can stop it in its tracks … You have to think long term here and you have to think of future generations."
VTACC held a community forum on the issue in Surrey on Monday. Another is planned for North Vancouver on March 20 and for New Westminster at a date to be determined.
The Quayside board's concerns are posted on its website (quaysideboard.com) with feedback invited by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.