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Port Edward raises concerns after large coal cloud spotted over Ridley Terminals

This photo of the dust cloud coming from Ridley Island was taken on June 6 from the Port Edward municipal offices.  - Contributed photo
This photo of the dust cloud coming from Ridley Island was taken on June 6 from the Port Edward municipal offices.
— image credit: Contributed photo

At their June 14 meeting the District of Port Edward took Ridley Terminals to task over a massive coal-dust cloud on June 6 that obscured the clear sky and dirtied people's patio furniture and decks.

“I had three residents call me and another 22 talked to me about it. It really concerns me...Ridley Terminals has a responsibility to control the dust on their site just as residents have the right to clean air and the enjoyment of their property. This has to stop,” said councillor Knut Bjorndal.

“We have brought this up over the years, this is not the first time...I have never seen the coal dust as bad as it is in these pictures,” added mayor Dave MacDonald.

Bjorndal also raised concerns about what the proposed expansion to Ridley Terminals will mean, noting that coal dust from the terminal seems to have increased when RTI went from handling two million tonnes per year to handling eight million tonnes and is now planning to create 24 million tonnes of capacity at the site.

In a response to calls from Port Edward, the company noted that air pollution is closely monitored by the operations department and that air pollution from winds and dry conditions are contained by a network of 19 flush type hydrants/spray monitors on 10 metre high pylons in each stock yard. The spray pile water is pumped to the monitors at 120 psi.

"We are sensitive to the concerns of the citizens of Port Edward. Once we heard the complaints we reviewed our policies and procedures...In that case it was a dry couple of days and the wind came up, which happens when we have a large stock at the site," explained spokesperson Dennis Blake, adding that the expansion could do more to suppress future incidents.

"Part of the building process is looking at new technology, so not just looking at what we have done in the past but working with new technology...We do want to be a good corporate citizen and are sensitive to the concerns of Port Edward."

However, councillors questioned why the company isn't being more proactive in their approach to controlling potential dust clouds.

“Obviously this is a real issue and I'd like to know what the water monitor does and when it activates...If we're just making a phone call and they turn the water on the coal, then why isn't it on before this becomes a problem? I imagine it costs extra money to run that all day, but there should be a better system,” said councillor Murray Kristoff.

“It's not that they're not doing what they should do, it's that they should be doing it all the time and not just when we complain about it,” added MacDonald.

In the end council decided to write RTI a letter and request they attend the July 12 meeting to discuss their process and plans for mitigation as the volume of coal being shipped through Prince Rupert continues to grow.

“As a council we have a responsibility to get answers for the community, not just for individual residents who complain...If this were a Fortune 500 company there would be some people who wouldn't be there anymore,” said Bjorndal.

“If we don't get answers from our meeting with RTI, the next step is to go to the Ministry of Environment to get them to look into this,” added Kristoff.

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