Monday, January 13, 2014

 

Op-Ed

Can Regulations Protect Us?

Making room alongside the mighty Fraser for a PCB recycling plant

Submitted by Jennifer Woodroff, ACT Chilliwack

 

ast Thursday, December 9th, a chemical leak affecting 100,000 homes and businesses in nine counties in the state of West Virginia, contaminated and rendered unfit the public water supply there.

 

Approximately 300,000 people were left without water and told that drinking, bathing or cooking with the contaminated water would result in “burning throat, eye irritation, vomiting, trouble breathing and skin blistering”.

 

The leak originated at Freedom Industries in a 48,000 gallon storage tank, containing 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), which is located above Charleston, West Virginia's water treatment facility. The substance is used for washing and preparing coal and it is unknown how much of it has entered the Elk River there. US federal prosecutors are investigating.

While you may read this and think to yourself  'Oh, we have better regulations in Canada. That couldn't happen here', I draw your attention to the recent PCB leak in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, originating in a facility illegally storing that highly toxic substance. This leaked into the town's storm drains in unknown quantities, just like in West Virginia.

Here in Chilliwack, City Council has just unanimously voted to re-zone land adjacent to the Fraser River on the Cattermole lands for the treatment and transfer of PCBs, mercury-containing light bulbs and a variety of other materials, including “infectious substances” and “miscellaneous organisms” (as described in a report from City Staff dated in November of 2013). Once the application has passed provincial approval, it will return to the City for 4th and final reading.

 

We may then face the presence of a facility, right here in Chilliwack and right on the banks of the iconic Fraser River, which handles large amounts of toxic chemicals and substances. While the proponent of this facility has an impeccable safety record, there is no question that accidents occur and that no safety record remains spotless forever. To believe otherwise is foolish.

I urge all who are reading this to contact their City Council members, the Mayor and their MLAs to demand that this facility be moved to a site more conducive to its proposed use. That site would be as far from the river as possible. There are many other more appropriate locations it might be sited.


To be clear, this is a necessary facility. We need to treat and dispose of these materials carefully and safely. What we do not need is to expose our delicate ecosystems (especially the Fraser River, its tributaries and wetlands) to the possibility of a Charleston or a Pointe-Claire.

Thank you for taking a stand for the Fraser River.

 

Listen to speakers, voice your opinion and meet others concerned with this proposed facility Tuesday.

 

When: Tuesday, January 14, 5:30 pm (Media Conference), 6 pm (Inaugural Meeting of ACT)

Where: Decades Coffee House on Wellington Avenue

 


 

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