A third party consultant has confirmed that there are no chemical additives added to Cantimber Biotech’s operations, despite recent accusations.
Chad Darby, from Golder and Associates, was hired by the Port Alberni Port Authority(PAPA) to conduct a study of the Chinese owned and operated mill’s operations.
An open meeting was held on Thursday, Oct. 13 to disclose the data collected from Golder’s review and to address issues and concerns that have arisen regarding how Cantimber’s operations are affecting air quality.
“We’ve been through the facility, we’ve looked at the process top to bottom and I can assure you that there are no chemical additives added to this process,” Darby told a packed audience in the Dogwood Room at Echo Centre.
Cantimber has received complaints from neighbouring residents about smoke emissions, strong odours and health issues related to the mill’s operations.
“[Cantimber] are trying to make a very pure activated carbon, therefore they can’t contaminate it with additional materials in the process,” Darby said. “The process literally is just clean wood chips from the forest.”
Darby said Cantimber’s wood provider is contractually obligated to provide clean materials direct from the forest.
Michael Liu, director of project development and research at Cantimber, said volatile organic compounds (VOC) are emitted from the mill but that they are not dangerous.
“This plant, the operation we do here, we do not add any chemical additives,” Liu said. “The emissions, the VOC content…is the same as burning wood. That’s what we’re doing, this is all burning wood.”
Golder and A.Lanfranco and Associates, out of Vancouver, will be in Port Alberni on Nov. 1 to conduct more testing at the Cantimber facility, including an examination of the facility’s two stacks that stick out above the mill’s roof.
In addition to the source testing of the stacks, Golder are also going to be on site monitoring for “fugitive” emissions to confirm they are not present in large quantities.
Fugitive emissions include any other emissions from the facility that are not going out the stack, like emissions through doorways or building vents.
For the stack testing to be undertaken, the facility will have to be operational for an estimated four days.
Input forms will be distributed for the public to make observations during the emissions testing.
About 60 people packed the standing-room-only room at Echo Centre. A dozen asked questions or provided statements during question period following the panelists’ presentation.
Stacey Gaiga, who lives near Cantimber and has been vocal in her opposition to the plant, spoke about negative health impacts she’s endured since Cantimber began operations. She questioned what it would take for the facility to cease activity.
“There’s a lot of people in this room that live within the vicinity of Cantimber, like myself… who are subjected to the emissions 24/7,” Gaiga said.
“Is it going to take us to phone you to say I have blood coming out of my nose again, I can’t get my breath anymore, I have burning happening in my lungs and my throat again and it’s taking my breath away? Is it going to take us to have to do that again to give you that opportunity to know that this has to be shut down?”
Port Alberni city councillor Jack McLeman asked about local job opportunities at Cantimber and thanked the panel for taking the time to listen to the public’s concerns.
“I want to say thank you to Cantimber for choosing our town to come to. I hope that you can get it so that it’s safe for the rest of us. We appreciate investment in our town,” McLeman said.
Christine Hintz, First Avenue resident, stood before the panel and audience with her young daughter to voice her frustrations with Cantimber’s operations.
“We are the closest house to this facility…I’m very upset,” Hintz said.
“I’ve gone up to my child’s playroom upstairs and it’s full of smoke and then [my daughter] has a nose bleed which she never had before. I just wanted to share that with you to let you know when we open our windows to let fresh air in, it’s not fresh. It feels like poison in my home.”