Leroy Reitsma

Leroy Reitsma

Pellet plant proposal sparks debate

Divisions are developing among Coldstream politicians over a proposed pellet plant

Divisions are developing among Coldstream politicians over a proposed pellet plant.

During a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, it was recommended council not support Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s application to the Ministry of Environment to discharge pollutants into the air unless provincial standards are met by the company.

However, opposition came from Councillors Maria Besso and Gyula Kiss.

“It’s already clear it doesn’t meet provincial standards,” said Kiss.

Coun. Doug Dirk, though, defended the recommendation, which will go before council Monday for consideration.

“The Ministry of Environment will determine what it will permit and that’s what we’re speaking to,” he said.

“If Pinnacle can’t meet the standards, they will make a decision (to proceed or not).”

During the committee meeting, Pinnacle officials defended their proposal for a pellet plant next to the Tolko Industries mill in Lavington.

“I recognize our application has initiated a passionate discussion,” said president Leroy Reitsma of the protest coming from some Lavington residents.

“We are gathering your concerns and will answer them through the process.”

The primary concern is over emissions and the potential impact on public health, particularly near Lavington Elementary School.

“There has been a lot of care and attention given to the technology,” said Reitsma.

“There are 3,500 operating systems in Europe. I have seen them operate in valleys similar to Lavington.”

Reitsma believes the facility would create a number of benefits.

“We can provide a lot of stability for the community — jobs, the mill and the rail line,” he said.

However, most of the capacity crowd at the committee meeting expressed reservations about Pinnacle’s plans.

“Whatever is in the air gets into people’s lungs,” said resident Stephanie Hoffman, who has called into question the company’s emissions report.

“The community deserves accurate information to base decisions on.”

That concern also came from Dr. Yann Brierley, a pathologist who lives in Lavington.

“Having a plant next to a school is fool hardy, if not irresponsible,” he said of possible respiratory issues.

“Parents won’t have their kids attend that school.  If that (reduced enrolment) happens, it’s the death of the community.”

Resident Barry Rafuse pointed out that winter inversions could trap particulates.

“I’m not against progress and I’m not a militant guy, but I want to see common sense and good planning,” he said.

Some residents indicated that Lavington’s air quality is already a concern.

“Dust is already bad and I can’t imagine adding to it,” said Jerome Hildebrand.

“Fifteen to 20 jobs cannot come at the risk of our community,” added Kym Lorentz.

Coldstream council will hold a public hearing Monday at 6 p.m. to consider rezoning of the property to allow for the pellet plant.