Pro­posed plant would al­le­vi­ate dump­ing prob­lem

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

The coun­cil vote fol­lowed a lively public meet­ing at the town hall on Feb. 23 in which some 60 peo­ple at­tended to hear from rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­pany.

Mayor Mur­phy chaired the meet­ing, and said there were ques­tions about air emis­sions, the dis­charge of ef­flu­ent into the marine ecosys­tem, and the trans­port and use of chem­i­cals such as hy­drochlo­ric acid and potas­sium hy­drox­ide, two im­por­tant chem­i­cals in the chitin pro­duc­tion process.

There were also con­cerns ex­pressed about some on­go­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing odour prob­lems and the on­go­ing dump­ing of shell waste at a lo­cal site.

“ There was a thor­ough dis­cus­sion of the up­side and the down­side,” said Mur­phy.

Mur­phy was ini­tially ap­pre­hen­sive about the project, but af­ter re­ceiv­ing more in­for­ma­tion, has warmed up to the idea.

“I greet this ap­pli­ca­tion with cau­tious op­ti­mism,” he said. “ If the com­pany is will­ing to come in and make a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar in­vest­ment into a tech­nol­ogy that is new in the prov­ince ... that in­vest­ment, given the volatil­ity of the fish­ing in­dus­try, can only lead to an ex­tended longevity of the fa­cil­ity in the com­mu­nity.”

“ That was one of the big­gest con­sid­er­a­tions that I had to think about,” he added.

Acid cause for con­cern

But the roughly $5 mil­lion project is still far from re­ceiv­ing the green light, with en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­provals still to come, and some com­mu­nity lead­ers still not con­vinced the project is in the best in­ter­est of the town.

Coun. Jen­nie Riggs op­poses the ap­pli­ca­tion, and be­lieves a ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents are also op­posed.

She wants coun­cil to hold a plebiscite, so ev­ery res­i­dent can have a say.

The com­mu­nity is nes­tled in a bowl-like har­bour, with only one road lead­ing in and out. Riggs said peo­ple are wor­ried that in the event of a cat­a­strophic event at the new plant, es­cape would be dif­fi­cult.

“ If any­thing hap­pens to this acid, peo­ple down in the har­bour are stuck there. It’s not a gam­ble I want to take,” said Riggs.

The com­pany has of­fered re­as­sur­ances that all safety mea­sures will be taken, but that’s not enough for Riggs. She said no sys­tem is per­fect.

“ The peo­ple are scared. It’s this acid,” she added.

A sec­ond at­tempt

This is­sue has been talked about on the Bay de Verde Penin­sula for sev­eral years.

In early 2008, the St. John’s-based com­pany was awarded up to $2.4 mil­lion un­der ACOA’s At­lantic In­no­va­tion Fund in or­der to con­duct re­search and de­vel­op­ment into the pro­cess­ing of chitin and chi­tosan, which are nat­u­ral de­riv­a­tives of shrimp and crab shell waste.

This nat­u­ral ma­te­rial is used in, among other things, wa­ter treat­ment sys­tems, drilling flu­ids for the oil and gas sec­tor, as well as the cos­met­ics in­dus­try.

At the time, the to­tal es­ti­mated cost of the project was $6.5 mil­lion.

The com­pany ini­tially pro­posed the es­tab­lish­ment of the plant in Old Per­li­can, where it also op­er­ates a seafood pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity. The old Riff ’s store on Route 80 was iden­ti­fied as the op­ti­mal site.

Then en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Char­lene John­son, the MHA for Trin­ity-Bay de Verde, ap­proved the en­vi­ron­men­tal pre­view re­port in March 2009.

But Old Per­li­can res­i­dents op­posed the project, and the com­pany tem­po­rar­ily shelved the idea

“The peo­ple didn’t want it be­cause of where it was go­ing,” said Old Per­li­can Mayor Harry Strong. “It was go­ing in the cen­tre of town, and they wanted to use the town sewer for its ef­flu­ent out­fall.

“No­body could tell us if it was good or not,” he added.

Strong wasn’t mayor at the time, but was op­posed to the project. He re­fused to com­ment on the ap­pli­ca­tion in Bay de Verde.

“ They can stand on their own two feet,” he said.

Com­pany still as­sess­ing

Bay de Verde is one of the most ac­tive fish­ing ports in the prov­ince, with some 400-plus peo­ple from through­out the re­gion work­ing at the Quin­lan Broth­ers pro­cess­ing plant dur­ing the sea­son.

The com­pany has op­er­ated in the com­mu­nity since the late 1960s.

Robin Quin­lan, an ex­ec­u­tive with Quin­lan Broth­ers Lim­ited, said the com­pany views the chitin plant as “an­other link in the chain” to en­sure the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of the op­er­a­tion.

He ad­mit­ted, how­ever, the com­pany is still not 100 per cent com­mit­ted to the project, and de­scribed the ven­ture as chal­leng­ing.

“ We want to make sure that if it’s done, it’s done right,” Quin­lan told The Com­pass last week, adding the com­pany is still an­a­lyz­ing the project and plans to for­mal­ize a path for­ward in the com­ing months.

“ This has been kick­ing around the board­room table for some time,” he added.

The com­pany ex­plained its plans in an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted to the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion in April 2008.

It in­volved a part­ner­ship with the Marine In­sti­tute and Memo­rial Univer­sity to “ help turn this fa­cil­ity into one of the most ef­fi­cient and tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced chitin plants built to date.”

The com­pany de­scribed it­self as this prov­ince’s “ largest pro­ces­sor of snow crab and shrimp,” and ex­plained that waste man­age­ment had be­come a crit­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal and fi­nan­cial is­sue.

At the time, pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Old Per­li­can and Bay de Verde were pro­duc­ing over 13 mil­lion tonnes of shrimp byprod­uct waste an­nu­ally.

The chitin and chi­tosan plant would re­di­rect this waste into a mar­ketable prod­uct and al­le­vi­ate the waste dis­posal prob­lem, the doc­u­ment ex­plained.

The doc­u­ment noted that new tech­nol­ogy pro­posed by the com­pany would re­duce the use of chem­i­cals such as hy­drochlo­ric acid.

The doc­u­ment also out­lined a long list of safety and train­ing pro­to­cols, en­vi­ron­men­tal and emer­gency con­tin­gency plans, and mea­sures to be put in place to treat dis­charge from the plant.

The com­pany an­tic­i­pated the chitin plant, at full pro­duc­tion, would cre­ate six full-time jobs and one to two oth­ers, as needed.

Quin­lan told The Com­pass he’s un­aware of any sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion in east­ern Canada, and per­haps North Amer­ica.

“ We see this as the con­tin­u­a­tion of the pro­cess­ing op­er­a­tion. We don’t see it as the uti­liza­tion of waste,” Quin­lan ex­plained.

As for the de­ci­sion to not lo­cate the plant in Old Per­li­can, Quin­lan said it was “ be­cause of the eco­nom­ics in­volved.” He said it makes more sense to es­tab­lish the plant in Bay de Verde, where the raw ma­te­rial is be­ing landed.

He de­scribed the Old Per­li­can op­tion as “non­vi­able.”

Ed­i­tor’s note: In next week’s edi­tion of The Com­pass, we ex­am­ine the chal­lenge in Bay de Verde of sup­ply­ing a suf­fi­cient amount of fresh, qual­ity wa­ter to its res­i­dents and the seafood pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity.

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