Letters writers have their eyes on coal delivered via train to ships in Delta (above) and planned for North Surrey.

Our leaders should take a breath

An open letter to the City of White Rock; and an open letter to Port Metro Vancouver.

An open letter to the City of White Rock.

Last month the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer indicated the air we breathe – including its particulate matter – should now be classified as carcinogenic to humans.

Then we found out from UBC researchers that chronic exposure to air pollution causes nearly nine times as many premature deaths in Canada as traffic crashes.

These are no longer speculative concerns by the lay public, they are credible scientific conclusions.

Many White Rock homes, including ours, are within the air shed of this life-threatening pollution originating from the rail line. Diesel-engine fumes and coal dust are of particular concern to the community because of the existing and proposed increased shipment of thermal coal from the U.S. through White Rock.

The Corporation of Delta has already responded to these concerns in 2012 by implementing a ‘coal dustfall monitoring’ study. Their recently released findings show that adjacent to the BNSF rail line, the daily dustfall was three times above the B.C. air-quality guideline for average dustfall in residential areas. Furthermore, 65 per cent of this dustfall was found to be coal.

Does the City of White Rock have any dustfall data pertaining to its own community? If not, are there plans for the city to do dustfall monitoring in the near future?

Without such essential monitoring data, the City of White Rock has little information on which to base future decisions or recommendations concerning the public health and environmental issues of coal transport through its community.

Ron U. Kistritz, White Rock

• • •

An open letter to Port Metro Vancouver.

We are writing to voice strong concern about the proposed plans to expand the Roberts Bank terminal and Surrey Fraser Docks. We have lived in the South Surrey/Crescent Beach area for more than 20 years, and have noted the increased rail activity through this area during this time, as the noise of their operations increasingly and frequently disturbs our sleep – even though we live several miles east of the rail lines.

In addition to the diminished quality of life, health and ability to function that these noise disturbances cause, new studies show that long-term interrupted sleep patterns can contribute to the development of dementia.

Aside from this single human impact of disturbed sleep, further expansion of activity for the rail lines, or the Roberts Bank terminal or Fraser Surrey Docks would have exponential negative impact on the health of thousands in the nearby communities.

Some of the 500 pounds of coal dust lost from each rail car of coal in transit through this area will either be inhaled by us or contaminate the soils of farms that they travel through – including the mercury and arsenic contaminants in this thermal coal.

Human bodies and the soil cannot be remediated from this type of contamination; thus we become diseased, our local food becomes poison and food becomes scarcer and more expensive in this region.

And beyond this, any attempts to spray down the coal in the cars just creates further contaminated material to have to deal with, increasing risk of contamination to the environment and all the myriad components of the various ecosystems which are integrated with each other around this region, including humans.

Already in this past year, an accident occurred at the Roberts Bank terminal when part of its infrastructure was damaged by a ship. The conveyor system that carries coal to ships was severed, causing coal to be spilled into the surrounding ocean. Coal is toxic to eelgrass. Healthy eelgrass is fundamental to the functioning of these shoreline and intertidal ecosystems. Where will we get our seafood if the oceans are poisoned with coal?

It is imperative to carry out, by an independent review panel, the highest level of environmental assessment of impacts of any expansion of these terminals, or for using them for transporting increased amounts of thermal coal or other petroleum products. Beyond that, we ask you to unequivocally oppose the expansion of the coal-transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks.

Patricia Randall & Dorothy Randall, Surrey

 

 

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