Pollution fighter challenges metal-cutting operation

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Feb 15, 2004
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The Beach Strip
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Eric McGuinness
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jun 4, 2008)
Score another win for Environment Hamilton and its executive director, Lynda Lukasik.

In her latest pollution-fighting success, Lukasik convinced the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to review certificates of approval for a smoky, dusty, metal-cutting operation outdoors on Parkdale Avenue North.

Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights allows any citizen to apply for a review of policies and regulations, including certificates under which the ministry allows industries to release pollutants into the air.

Exercising that right, Lukasik applied for a review of two certificates held by Triple M Metals, formerly Poscor Mill Services, to use oxypropane torches to cut scrap metal on the south shore of Hamilton Harbour's Windermere Basin.

Beach Strip residents say the cutting often creates clouds of fumes, metal particles and other dust.

Lukasik said she was very pleased by the decision, but couldn't understand why a similar application for review of Arcelor Mittal Dofasco's steelmaking melt shop had been rejected even though it dealt with many of the same contaminants.

"I can't come to grips with how they could accept one and not the other. There seems clearly to be serious inconsistencies in how they make decisions."

Ministry officers responding to complaints visited the Poscor-Triple M site last September and reported the emissions' opacity or blackness -- a measure of how much light is blocked -- ranged from 10 to 60 per cent, mostly in the 20 to 30 per cent range.

Regulations say "no person shall cause an emission in the air that obstructs the passage of light by an average of more than 20 per cent for six consecutive minutes."

A letter from assistant deputy minister Michael J. Williams says "abatement actions were undertaken," but offers no details, and Beach Strip residents say the problem persists.

The ministry says it will do a review, even though Triple M is applying to move the cutting operation to a building on Strathearne Avenue equipped with baghouses to filter emissions.

"The review will be initiated immediately and is estimated to take six months to complete," Williams says in a letter to Lukasik.

In an attached decision summary, the ministry says it is: "concerned with the potential for harm that may be occurring from the emissions that will continue at the Parkdale Avenue sites," adding that it has received complaints from "consultants working in the area that visible emissions are impairing their ability to work during the period of the emissions."

Lukasik is, meanwhile, pressing for tighter control of metal-cutting at the Strathearne site as well as dust from loading and unloading scrap and from trucks driving on unpaved surfaces.

She notes, as The Spectator recently reported, that Triple M predicts emissions of fine particles -- considered especially harmful to human health -- will routinely run at 97.8 per cent of the maximum allowed at "point of impingement" or POI -- where it reaches neighbouring properties.

That, she says, "pushes the POI too close to the limit" and "leads us to wonder how much of the time the emissions will likely exceed the POI limit."

emcguinness@thespec.com

905-526-4650
 
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