Proponents of a hot-dip galvanizing plant that began operating in South Surrey last month say critics have been espousing “bloody nonsense” and “scare tactics” as they warn of potential impact on the environment
“This is idiotic,” Hugo Eppich, founder of Ebco Metal Finishing LP, told Peace Arch News this week of comments around pollution. “We’re conforming to all the laws.”
The 33,000-square-foot plant, located at 18699 24 Ave., is replacing the company’s Richmond facility, Eppich said during a tour of the site Wednesday that he offered in an effort to clear the air.
Currently operating at “one-third to one-half” of its capacity, he said, the facility is expected to be fully operational in May – plans opponents are hoping to delay through proceedings at the Environmental Appeal Board.
That decision is also expected in May, however, Ebco chief operating officer Edwin Eppich – the founder’s nephew – said he is “hopeful and confident” the appeal won’t succeed.
The move to South Surrey brings the business closer to its customers, enabled a larger operation and improved Ebco’s ability to be competitive, he said.
Critics of the plant, many of them nearby neighbours, have said they’re concerned that the operations were given the go-ahead – including short-term approval issued by Metro Vancouver March 1 to discharge air contaminants – before proper analysis of any impact can be done; in particular, that associated with heavy metals such as nickel. They also claim that Hugo Eppich, in pitching the facility, promised zero emissions.
The senior Eppich disputes the assertions. The 82-year-old and his nephew pointed to stack-test results done at the Richmond facility in January as proof that the process used – the same that’s being used in South Surrey – emits well within the allowable limits of particulates.
In the case of zinc, emissions are “500 times less” than what’s allowed. Nickel in the molten-zinc dip is “not even to talk about,” Hugo Eppich said, describing the quantity as “trace amounts.”
Edwin Eppich said the call for zero emissions is unrealistic.
“Zero doesn’t exist in this world. We believe our (emissions) are well within what’s required and not a danger to anyone,” he said.
“Any factory, any farm, any apartment building, they’re going to be burning fuels. To single us out doesn’t seem particularly fair or reasonable.”
Regarding opponents’ insistence that zero-emissions were promised, Hugo Eppich said he never made that promise; only that there would be no effluent released from the operation – “I never said that I have no pollution.”
In January 2015, the founder told PAN that acid used in the process will be reclaimed and smoke from the galvanizing kettle will be well-filtered.
“My message is the same,” he said Wednesday. “As far as we’re concerned, we have the cleanest operation west of Ontario and have very little that would come out.”
Last month, Metro Vancouver’s environmental regulation and enforcement division manager, Ray Robb, described proposed emissions as “not a particularly large amount.”
Testing at the South Surrey site is to take place by the end of May, Edwin Eppich said.
Watching lamp posts get lowered into the molten-zinc dip kettle, Hugo Eppich said smoke created in the process will go through two filters before it is released.
Steam that can be seen rising from the series of open tanks the poles were dipped in prior is nothing more than steam, he added: “It’s not pollution.”
He said he has been frustrated by the opposition; those behind it are not properly informed, he said.
“They never took any time to really research it. They just hit, they just accuse,” Eppich said.
“Why don’t they inform themselves before they accuse anybody? I would like to debate one of these guys.”