A company says millions of dollars have been pumped into Lavington to create jobs, clean the air and recycle wood waste into a product being shipped worldwide.
Pinnacle Renewable Energy has moved next to the existing Tolko planer mill in Coldstream.
Taking the sawdust and wood shavings from the neighbouring mill, as well as fibre trucked in from other sawmills in the region, Pinnacle creates wood pellets, which are used in pellet stoves to heat homes.
“Everything that comes in here goes out as a pellet,” said Leroy Reitsma, Pinnacle president and COO.
“In an hour, we produce enough to heat 30 homes for a year.”
So far, the $47 million plant has hired and trained 25 employees for the 24/7 operation and a few more may still be needed.
“There’s the trucking jobs as well that are happening,” said Reitsma, as fibre is shipped into the plant, and product is shipped overseas to Japan, Korea, the U.K., Holland, Belgium, Denmark and even local Home Hardware stores.
While some of the product is shipped out via truck, much of it goes directly from the plant to the rail cars.
“We produce a rail car about every three hours.”
Along with securing the railway, the new pellet plant is helping its neighbour Tolko.
“It really does secure the operation next door,” said Reitsma.
But there are some neighbours who aren’t so happy with the new plant.
Many Lavington residents are concerned about the plumes of smoke they see coming from the plant and the impact it might be having on air quality.
But what those residents are seeing isn’t smoke at all, it’s steam from the drying process, which includes filters, said Reitsma.
“This is steam, we’re evaporating water. It’s no different than the dry kilns.”
In fact, Reitsma says the air is clear over the two exhaust pipes from the plant, which cyclonically separates the material and filters the air.
And the plant has also built pipes from Tolko in order to move the sawdust without creating a dust storm.
“That used to just puke dust,” said Reitsma, noting that pollution control equipment was upgraded at Tolko as a precursor to the plant being built.
“I am so proud when I look at the difference, compared to what it was before we had the filter.”
The Ministry of Environment is also pleased with the effect the plant will have on the area.
“With the upgrades, the overall impact to the airshed from both facilities is expected to result in a net reduction of particulate discharges and subsequent improvement to local air quality,” the ministry told The Morning Star.
“Pinnacle is using the best available technology for the pellet plant and the permit requires the lowest concentration discharge rate of any pellet plant currently operating in B.C.”
But there are also some concerns from residents in the area about testing the air quality to ensure these measures are reached.
Pinnacle’s permit requires it to conduct testing on its emissions, and also to participate in a joint ambient air quality monitoring program in the local area.
“Ministry staff have been actively negotiating with landowners at potential sites where air monitoring equipment could be installed,” stated the ministry.
“It is expected the monitoring equipment will be up and running later this fall.”
Meanwhile, Reitsma says Pinnacle is doing its best to ensure the operation is running smoothly, and that includes addressing some noise issues.
“We’re trying to be a considerate neighbour,” said Reitsma, who has personally been over to people’s houses to hear their concerns and how the noise travels.
“We have a little bit of work to do yet on cleaning up the noise.”