NewPro on Railway Avenue in Smithers.

NewPro on Railway Avenue in Smithers.

Bulkley Valley air quality concern raised as NewPro plans conversion

A delegation wants to halt approval of new industrial operations in Smithers until an assessment of particulate matter was done.

Concern about the quality of the Bulkley Valley’s airshed was raised at last Tuesday’s Smithers council meeting.

A delegation wanted to put a halt to any approval of industrial operations in town until an assessment of the area’s particulate matter was done. Smithers and Telkwa do not meet the provincial standard said presenters Dr. Biz Bastian and Gina LaHaye.

They came forward to speak on the application by NewPro to switch from panel board to wood pellet manufacturing, which the company said would actually reduce emissions by 94 per cent.

NewPro, or Northern Engineered Wood Products, still has an active permit to produce panel board at its Railway Avenue facility.

In applying for the permit amendment, modeling was done to predict the emissions of the plant as per Environment Ministry rules.

The application to the Town states that total particulate matter would drop from 432 to 26 tonnes per year by switching to wood pellets and changing some of the equipment inside.

Rebecca Martin of SLR Consulting works on behalf of NewPro. She said there will be an open house for anyone with questions about the operations and emissions from July 9-11. She asks that visitors call ahead at 250-562-4452 or email rmartin@slrconsulting.com to gauge demand on whether to call a meteorologist in.

Eri Ottersburg, an engineer and the lead modeler for emission estimates, will be at the open house tour.

Martin said agreements are being worked on with West Fraser to use Pacific Inland Resources slash piles in the plant.

“And this is not part of our modeling, this is not part of the picture of the overall health of your airshed that we’ve included in our modeling outputs, but it will be the offset that this facility will have to the slash pile burnings,” said Martin.

“This is a significant to improvement to your airshed because slash pile burning is a tremendous loading of particulates … to the atmosphere because you’re burning inefficiently.”

Martin went on to describe the dryer being used,which she said would make the plant very different than other wood pellet plants. She compared it to a similar plant in Merrit.

“They’ve been operating for almost a year now. In fact, their neighbours don’t even realize they’re operating. Media contacted the ministry recently asking when this facility is supposed to start up, and they said ‘sorry, it’s been operating for 10 months,’” said Martin.

“You’re not going to see an opaque cloud coming out of it.”

NewPro hopes to open with 30-40 employees next year, and start construction before this winter.