It was standing room only at a marathon five hour public hearing in Coldstream Monday night. At issue, a rezoning application to allow for the building of a wood pellet plant in Lavington. If given the go ahead the Pinnacle Pellet Plant will be built next to the Tolko Mill, but the proposed location is raising alarm bells, not because it’s beside the mill but because it’s a mere 150 metres from Lavington Elementary School.
An increase in traffic and emissions from that traffic are concerning, but what has most residents on edge are the potential health risks from the plant. Pinnacle paid for a technical assessment forecasting emissions from the plant and it seemingly passed provincial regulations in all but one category. In what the company calls a “worst case scenario” the plant could exceed annual levels of PM 2.5, a fine particulate matter which according to the World Health Organization can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and cancers.
“I can’t fathom why with that exposure we would gamble the health of my children and the children of people in this room,” says one parent. “These children are breathing in toxins while they are trying to enjoy some much needed time to play,” says another.
Some did come forward in favour of the plant, including a representative from the City of Armstrong.
The school board wasn’t consulted on the re-zoning plan, and since the application pushed forward mostly through July, the board hasn’t had a chance to discuss the issue. Now regardless of its stance, the board can’t have its say as Monday was the last public consultation.
In the end the re-zoning application passed third reading by the skin of its teeth. The final vote from Coldstream Council was 4-3 in favour. A vote on final approval will take place this coming Monday.
“I think by allowing it go forward to the Ministry of Environment process, the permitting process, they employ the experts. We don’t employ experts here,” says Coldstream’s mayor, Jim Garlick.
The next step for the project to get the go ahead is acquiring environmental permits from the province.