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Residents fuming over pellet facility

Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacle Renewable Energies president, speaks to a packed open house at Coldstream council Monday about the proposed plans for a pellet plant in Lavington. - Jennifer Smith/Morning Star
Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacle Renewable Energies president, speaks to a packed open house at Coldstream council Monday about the proposed plans for a pellet plant in Lavington.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

Some Lavington residents remain unconvinced that their neighbourhood is the best spot for a pellet plant.

Tolko Industries and Pinnacle Renewable Energies have plans to construct a pellet plant next to the existing Tolko planer mill off School Road.

Concerned residents were granted the opportunity to air their concerns about the plant at a Coldstream council meeting Monday.

“I do feel that what I’m being sold here is a healthy cigarette,” said Jason Hoffman, who lives on School Road. “We’ve got a school close by and we’ve got a riparian area bordering the property.”

Although pellet plants can generate air pollutants, proponents insist this plant will be the most modern facility in Canada.

“What we’re doing here is a step well above what we’re required,” said Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacles president and COO.

“It’s much more expensive but we think given the proximity to the community here it’s warranted.”

The $39 million investment, which will generate at least 25 full-time jobs plus further spinoffs, will produce significantly lower emissions as it is a low temperature drying facility. As a result, the VOCs some are concerned about will not be produced, said Reitsma.

But Hoffman insists: “It’s not what you can see, it’s what you can’t see that may be dangerous.”

The entire project is also subject to several approvals, including expert reviews which are currently underway.

Agricultural Land Commission approval is pending to grant non-farm use on the total seven-acre parcel of land for the plant.

“They will grant approval for a pellet facility and nothing more,” said Coldstream’s director of development services Mike Reiley.

Coldstream must also approve land changes as the property is moved from agricultural to industrial use.

Coldstream recently gave third reading to do so, but reminds that this process gives the district a say, whereas if the plant was built on existing industrial land the district would only be asked for building permit approvals.

“They could actually construct this facility without any further reviews or requests from council,” said Reiley.

The Ministry of Environment must also approve the facility, which will be done through an environmental assessment (expected to be completed in mid to late February).

“That process must prove that in terms of the impact on human health that this plant will not have a negative impact,” said Reitsma, adding that the assessment will be available to the public and that there will be a public meeting to discuss the findings.

Tolko’s Ken Thorlakson says the location was chosen due to its proximity to the existing planer mill and railway.

“Anytime you have to put material in a truck and load it and unload it, there’s an added cost,” said Thorlakson of why other locations weren’t viable.

This site is anticipated to generate an additional two to four trucks per day (versus the additional trucks that would have been needed to haul to a different location), and it will boost the railway with an additional 3,500 cars per year.

 

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