Several Lavington residents say their worst fears are coming true.
Despite all their protests and warnings, the Pinnacle Pellet Plant is up and running next to Tolko and near neighbouring subdivisions, as well as Lavington Elementary School.
Their fears of noise, traffic, light pollution and particulate matter are now a daily concern.
“There is a clear misrepresentation happening from what was proposed to what we have been given,” said Stephanie Hoffman, who has been fighting the plant for more than a year now with her small children in tow.
More than a dozen residents joined Hoffman at Coldstream council Monday to air their concerns and demand that politicians do more to represent them.
“This is our home and we demand that council raise the bar on acceptable practices,” said Hoffman, whose words garnered applause.
Council agreed to make their own demands on Pinnacle and the Ministry of Environment to help its residents quite literally sleep at night.
First priority is getting the delayed air quality monitoring system up and running. Plans are close to being finalized on installing it at Lavington Baptist Church. Coldstream is also investigating purchasing its own system, or using one which has been promised to the North Okanagan.
“Our main concerns through this has and continues to be air quality,” said Jason Hoffman. “There is more than just water vapor escaping the stacks. My eyes, nose and throat tell me otherwise. We want proof of a healthy living environment.”
While Pinnacle has stated that it is just steam coming from the drying stacks, residents have witnessed and documented brown smoke as well as a grey/blue smoke on certain days.
“The pictures we were shown today look a lot different than steam,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane.
But those pictures are not representative of what is happening right now, according to Trevor Seibel, chief administrative officer.
“There was a period when something was being omitted but that has been corrected,” said Seibel.
Highway 6 resident Jennifer Brown disagrees, as she continues to see smoke, not steam.
“Some days it does look fine,” admits Brown, who refuses to open her windows anymore and has even resorted to closing her blinds.
Others have gone to even more extreme measures.
“I’ve moved my children out of Lavington Elementary School and I’m absolutely convinced I’ve made the right decision,” said Brad Broten, who lives on Brewer Road and complains of being woken up in the middle night with troubled breathing.
Corry Methot lives two blocks from the plant and agrees that different days there appears to be different things coming from the stacks. Some days, she says you can taste it.
“You can literally chew wood fibre in your mouth,” said Methot.
But what concerns the community the most isn’t what they can see, but what they can’t.
“The problem stuff is invisible,” said Coun. Richard Enns of the particulate matter, which studies have shown to be carcinogenic.
Noise is another major aggravation, although Pinnacle is working on addressing the issues.
“I don’t know how I go to work for 12 hours a day when I can’t sleep at night,” said Stephanie Hoffman, who would like to see the plant restricted to operating between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Council is making demands for information on various topics, including the staging versus storage of sawdust, clarity on what was projected and what is actually being produced at the plant and truck traffic.
“I’ve counted up to 40 trucks a day going in and out of the Pinnacle plant,” said School Road resident Sheila Sacht, who is convinced they must be hiding something since it is taking so long to get the air monitor installed.
But some aren’t convinced their concerns will ever be fully addressed.
“My projection sirs is you are probably going to hear about this problem for years to come, as it’s not going to go away,” said Barry Rafuse.