A hearing contesting an air-quality permit issued to a South Surrey galvanizing plant has been adjourned again, following a decision to join it with a second appeal – related to an amended permit that was issued in July.
The move has frustrated residents who have been fighting to quash a 2018 approval that Metro Vancouver gave to Ebco Metal Finishing Ltd. to discharge air contaminants from its 18699 25 Ave. plant.
“It’s basically starting all over again,” Frank Mueggenburg said last month, following the adjournment.
“We spent two-and-a-half years arguing the permit… and then on July 3, they surprise us with an amendment to the permit that overrides what we’re arguing about. It completely changes everything.”
The Ebco plant has raised concerns for area residents since they learned in 2015 that it was going to be more than just a warehouse, as initial City of Surrey notices had advised.
Concerns ramped up in 2018, after Metro Vancouver issued an air-quality permit that authorized the annual discharge of 3.7 tonnes of contaminants – incuding zinc, nickel and particulates – from the hot-dip facility, through February 2033.
In proceedings before the Environmental Appeal Board that got underway in the spring of 2019, appellants have detailed fears of long-term impacts of the emissions on human, animal and crop health, as well as to contaminants’ potential effects on the Brookswood aquifer, while Metro Vancouver officials have described the plant as a “relatively small emitter” compared to others in the region that are also authorized to discharge contaminants.
The hearing was delayed this year due to the pandemic, but got rolling again in early August in Richmond. Due to the second appeal, however, evidence that could be discussed was limited to the roof-vents emission source for which permissions were unchanged in the amended permit.
Kathy Preston, who is Metro Vancouver’s lead senior engineer, told PAN it includes “a lot of small changes and some major ones,” the biggest change being the additional baghouse.
“The main reason that Ebco applied for an amendment was so that they could use a third baghouse on this galvanizing kettle enclosure. It was not in the original permit,” Preston explained.
“It’s quite a bit bigger than the other two baghouses,” she added, “… so there’s a lot more air going through and being treated. A really simple way of thinking about it is like adding another vacuum cleaner.”
Ebco and Metro Vancouver representatives told the EAB panel in early September that they supported joining the appeals, describing the move as efficient and logical.
Mueggenburg told Peace Arch News that all of the appellants opposed the joinder.
The amended permit, among other things, authorized an additional baghouse at the plant, increased the overall authorized emissions and reduced the annual maximum allowed hours of operation of the two original baghouses.
Mueggenburg acknowledged that the extra baghouse addresses some of the appellants’ concerns – “they’ve got a lot more suck in that kettle than they’ve ever had before,” he said – “but in saying that, it’s what they should’ve done in the first damn place,” he said.
Appellants are also concerned that the overall authorized emissions were increased without consulting the public, he said, and that the list of contaminants now includes “new chemicals that have no place in this galvanizing facility.”
An attempt at mediation, he noted, was unsuccessful.
Mueggenburg said despite having to proceed with the appeals joined, appellants remain determined.
“I’ve talked with a couple of experts this far and they said, don’t give up,” he said.
Continuation dates are expected to be set at the end of November.