An air-quality permit issued for Ebco Metal Finishing LP’s galvanizing plant has been a source of concern for area residents. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Neighbour of South Surrey galvanizing plant worries emissions ‘are killing us’

Officials say complaints occurred ‘when factory wasn’t operating’

The panel considering the fate of an air-quality permit issued last year to a South Surrey galvanizing plant heard Tuesday about symptoms ranging from burning eyes to trouble breathing – symptoms those who want the permit quashed are confident are linked to emissions from the facility.

“I think they’re killing us,” Inga Thielemann told the Environmental Appeal Board trio, in response to questions from fellow appellant Murray McFadden regarding the senior’s health since Ebco Metal Finishing LP began operations at the 18699 25 Ave. plant.

“They’re slowly killing us.”

READ MORE: ‘This is our everything’: South Surrey farmer

Thielemann said she and her husband, Carl, have lived on acreage in the 2600-block of 184 Street since 1971, initially raising cattle for the dairy industry, then producing certified-organic feed for livestock.

The Ebco plant has raised concerns for area residents since they learned in 2015 that it was not going to be simply a warehouse, as initial City of Surrey notices had advised.

The EAB did, in May 2016, issue a stay of a short-term emissions permit that had been granted to Ebco by Metro Vancouver two months prior, to prevent the discharge of air contaminants “until such time as there is sufficient information to support an assumption that the approval provides adequate protection for human health and the environment.”

READ MORE: South Surrey galvanizing-plant emissions OK’ed

READ MORE: South Surrey galvanizing fumes halted

Ebco at the time countered that 14 appeals submitted to the EAB “raise no serious issues, and the applicants’ interests will suffer no harm if a stay is denied.”

Last spring, Ebco was granted a 15-year permit to discharge contaminants including zinc, nickel and particulate matter.

In giving evidence Tuesday – the final day of 10 scheduled to hear from the appellants – Thielemann said most emissions from the plant are occurring overnight.

However, she recounted a May 2016 day when, while outside on her property, she experienced “terrible” symptoms that she attributed to a “low cloud coming in.”

“I was having difficulties in breathing and I didn’t know what it was,” Thielemann said.

“The dogs started coughing and running around. I also had a cat there and she was doing the same thing.

“It was very new to me to see something like that and have the reactions that I did.”

While symptoms subsided during the two years that Ebco was not operating, Thielemann said they returned after operations resumed at the plant last year.

In cross-examination, Ebco counsel Nicholas Hughes reviewed complaints Thielemann made to Metro regarding Ebco dated July 23 and Aug. 4, of 2018. Noting both reports were made in the middle of the night, Hughes asked Thielemann if it would surprise her to learn that the plant “had been shut for a couple of days before” the July 23 incident; and, had stopped operating 12 hours prior to the second report.

Thielemann said no, but stood her ground on what she had reported.

“I’m not making up stories,” she said.

After Thielemann confirmed she’d had no respiratory issues prior to the May 2016 experience, Hughes cited a letter that her husband had submitted to the EAB in April 2016, which notes her “weakened state of health” and “lung damage from breathing secondhand smoke” during her time working for the airlines in the 1970s, when smoking on planes was still allowed.

“It appears… that prior to this (2016) incident, you were already experiencing lung damage,” Hughes said.

Thielemann responded that secondhand smoke “does affect you but not to the extreme that you have problems like I have now.”

Others to address the panel Tuesday included Terry McNeice, Patricia Rush and Sonja Kroecher.

While McNeice noted he was missing answers to a number of questions posed to Ebco, including details on what chemicals specifically are used in the plant’s 10 vats, Hughes countered that all of the questions that could be answered have been – including ones the company wasn’t obliged to.

“No good deed goes unpunished, which is what is happening here,” Hughes said.

Regarding a requested explanation of procedures around acid misting, Hughes said McNeice was advised there is no procedure beyond the manufacturer’s specifications.

Regarding certain solution compositions, Hughes said protocol regarding trade secrets “that our client seeks to protect” came into play.

Dates have not yet been set for Metro Vancouver and Ebco to present their evidence in the case. Panel chair Darrell Le Houillier told Peace Arch News Tuesday that it would be a matter of finding dates that work for all of the parties.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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