A galvanizing plant at the centre of concern for a rural South Surrey neighbourhood has received short-term permission to discharge air contaminants.
The approval from Metro Vancouver was issued to Ebco Metal Finishing LP on March 1 and expires Nov. 30.
But neighbours and others who had provided comments regarding the application – and were advised of the decision March 3 – say they’re wondering why a claimed zero-emissions commitment by the plant’s operator wasn’t given any weight.
“They basically ignored (Ebco owner Hugh) Eppich’s comments about zero emissions,” said Terry McNeice, spokesperson for the South Surrey Ratepayers Association, citing comments made to media and the city’s environmental committee. “(Eppich) stated on numerous occasions this plant’s going to have zero emissions, and we know now it’s not.”
(Ebco staff told Peace Arch News that owner Hugo Eppich is on vacation until March 23 and unavailable to comment. They referred PAN to his nephew, Ed, however, Ed Eppich did not respond to a request for comment.)
Ebco is building the plant at 18699 24 Ave. City council approved a bylaw regulating the site for “light impact industry” in November 2012, following a public hearing, and a development permit was issued in July 2014.
Metro’s environmental regulation and enforcement division manager, Ray Robb, described the proposed emissions – the exact amount can’t be determined until the plant is operating – as “not a particularly large amount,” and estimated annual permit fees at “in the $400 range.” By contrast, another galvanizing plant in the region pays $16,000, he said; other operations pay fees of $400,000.
“A first cut is that this is at the low end in terms of the harmfulness of emissions.”
Robb said “at no time” during the application process did Ebco officials claim to Metro that they were seeking zero emissions.
Eppich told PAN in January 2015 that his plant – which he said would be the largest of its kind west of Ontario – will not be releasing any effluent into the surrounding area, acid used will be reclaimed and smoke from the galvanizing kettle will be well-filtered.
“We have to adhere to GVRD emission standards,” Eppich said. “We have quite strict rules.
“As far as I’m concerned… machine shops or other shops would emit more pollution than we have.”
Residents first contacted PAN at that time, citing concerns with such a facility being built so close to an elementary school – East Kensington is in the 2700-block of 184 Street – as well as with the lack of public notice around it. In December, McNeice described an estimation of annual emissions at more than six tonnes per year as “frightening… a complete shock.”
For Shari Tompe, whose family business, Hazelmere Pumpkin Patch, is less than a kilometre from the under-construction plant, any emissions are a concern, as it’s unclear just what kind of impact they will have on her 20 Avenue farm. The 27-acre property hosts thousands of school children every year.
Any impact, she noted, may not be known for years.
“I kind of feel like we’re guinea pigs,” Tompe said this week.
Tompe said she’s raised her concerns with “everybody I can, everybody who will listen,” and is arranging for soil testing to be done to establish a baseline of existing heavy metals against which any changes can be measured. Water on the property is also being tested, she said.
Similar concerns have also prompted a recommendation to forego a school program that sees students release 5,000 coho fry into Erickson Creek “until the issue is dealt with.”
Jim Armstrong, a biologist with the Nicomekl Enhancment Society, confirmed members were to consider the suggestion Sunday (March 13). If adopted, it will be the second NES school program affected this year due to industrial impact, he said.
According to the notice of approval from Metro Vancouver, those “who consider themselves aggrieved” by the decision have 30 days to appeal, and McNeice, Tompe and more than a dozen others say they have met for three hours already to get a plan for theirs in order.