Development permit for plant approved
Thursday, Aug 02, 2012 06:00 am
The Municipal Planning Commission for the MD of Bighorn has approved Lafarge Canada’s development permit application to expand the Exshaw cement plant.
On July 26, the five-person MPC signed off on the permit application following a special meeting in Exshaw with 34 conditions covering two distinct phases: construction and post-construction or operating.
These conditions focus largely on noise, dust, traffic and other areas of concern and how the plant will manage those concerns.
Lafarge submitted its development permit application to the MD in June, however, even though natural resource extraction and processing is a permitted use in the Natural Resources (NR) District, Bighorn planners chose to refer the application to the MPC given its scope and nature to ensure the expansion meets the requirements of Bighorn’s Land Use Bylaw.
MPC members first began discussing the application on July 18, but had to extend the hearing to July 26 after tabling the recommendation to approve the development application to allow both Lafarge and MD administration to clarify questions and concerns that arose from conditions of approval proposed by the municipality’s planners.
With approval of the development permit, assistant municipal manager Greg Birch said Wednesday (Aug. 1) Lafarge has to meet pre-construction conditions, such as producing a construction management plan, before applying for the appropriate building permits that will be required for the various stages of construction.
As Lafarge completed a lengthy environmental screening report that essentially fulfilled the roll of an Environmental Impact Assessment as part of its 2007 application to Alberta Environment, Bighorn community planner Tracy Woitenko said the MD was not seeking a Development Impact Assessment, which is normally used to ensure an applicant meets the requirements of the LUB.
The EIA fulfills that requirement, Woitenko said, providing the necessary information in the process.
“We have not asked them for a full development impact assessment because they have essentially met these requirements,” she said, adding the assessment studied local issues such noise and dust.
Lafarge is proposing to upgrade kiln 5 and decommission the gravel bed filter, outdated dust-control technology, by May 31, 2014; decommission kiln 4 and construct kiln 6, construct a new roller mill for kiln 6 and decommission raw mill 1 and build a new vertical cement finish mill by May 31, 2015.
Once construction is completed, Woitenko said, the expansion would allow Lafarge to increase production from its current levels of 1.3 to 2.1 million tonnes per year.
Woitenko said Lafarge also submitted its 2009 Fugitive Dust Control Best Management Practice Program as part of its application that outlines how the plant will implement staff training, an inspection program and performance guidelines.
Noise levels at the plant, Woitenko said, continuing to summarize details from Lafarge’s application, are expected to decrease with the improved technology, including night-time levels. As part of its operating approval, Alberta Environment is requiring the plant to reach night-time levels of 48 decibels in keeping with Directive 38 of the Energy Utilities Board.
Plant Manager Heinz Knopfel said the MPC’s conditions and the plant’s planned technological upgrades, as well as locating the kiln line on the western side of the plant, should reduce the issues that are causes of concern in Exshaw, specifically dust and noise.
“I see the benefits this project will bring in meeting the conditions the MD has set forth and I see the project enhancing the environment of the MD,” Knopfel said.
Near the end of the hearing, Exshaw business owner Al Doll told the MPC he had concerns about dust and how the amount of dust on Highway 1A appears to be increasing.
“What bothers me the most is a lot of migrant dust and mud ends up on the highway that is not attended to,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a Lafarge issue or an MD issue or an Alberta Transportation issue. I can take you over and watch transportation trucks go by and we’ll watch the dust.”
He also expressed his frustration that the Exshaw Plant no longer has a community relations person on staff.
“I’m disappointed Lafarge doesn’t have a community relations person that resides in the community to meet one-on-one. You can call the plant and there’s no community relations person. I think that is paramount, given the size of this project,” he said.
Lafarge is currently in the process of producing a community relations plan as part of the expansion project.
“I think Lafarge does go over and above trying to monitor noise when complaints come in on the hotline,” Knopfel said. “We also use the hotline for cause and effect. Trying to pinpoint what is causing that particular situation. I truly believe that a lot of our noise complaints will be diminished or eliminated with decommissioning kiln 4 and moving kiln 6 away from the residential areas.”
According to ambient monitoring data provided by Lafarge, dust in Exshaw – specifically particulate matter (2.5 and 10) – has been falling since 2009.