More scrutiny for pro­posed chitin plant

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

The provin­cial govern­ment has or­dered that apro­posed­chitin/chi­tosan pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and lab­o­ra­tory in Bay de Verde un­dergo some ex­tra scrutiny.

The Depart­ment of Environment an­nounced re­leased that project byQuin­lan Broth­ers Limit­e­dun­dergo an en­vi­ron­men­tal pre­view re­port (EPR).

Min­is­ter Ross Wise­man made the an­nounce­ment in an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment bul­letin is­sued late last month.

The un­der­tak­ing was reg­is­tered with the prov­ince on April 20, and the dead­line for pub­lic com­ments was May 25.

Wise­man was ex­pected to make a de­ci­sion on the project by June 4.

Lit­tle to com­ment on

Com­pany man­ager Robin Quin­lan ad­mit­ted in a tele­phone in­ter­view with The Com­pass late last week: “ There’s not re­ally much to com­ment on ... the govern­ment re­quires additional in­for­ma­tion.”

Quin­lan also said his com­pany is ob­li­gated to com­ply with govern­ment’s re­quest.

“Hope­fully, at the end of the day when it’s ap­proved — if it is ap­proved — we can make a de­ci­sion on whether we’re go­ing to move ahead or not,” he stated.

Paul Ride­out, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist with the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment divi­sion, in­di­cated the pur­pose of the EPR is twofold: to “ad­dress ques­tions re­gard­ing ac­cess to an ad­e­quate sup­ply of fresh water for the chitin plant, as well as ques­tions about the abil­ity to treat the chitin plant ef­flu­ent to ac­cept­able stan­dards prior to dis­charge.”

Chitin by way of shell­fish

The com­pany’s pro­posal calls for the use of waste ma­te­rial from shell­fish pro­cess­ing to man­u­fac­ture chitin. This nat­u­ral ma­te­rial is used in, among other things, water treat­ment sys­tems, drilling flu­ids for the oil and gas sec­tor, and the cos­met­ics in­dus­try.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion re­leased by the prov­ince, the op­er­a­tion in­volves pro­cess­ing shell­fish waste into a pow­der us­ing potas­sium, hy­drox­ide, hy­drochlo­ric acid and water. Plans call for the ex­pan­sion of the ex­ist­ing shell­fish pro­cess­ing plant in Bay de Verde to ac­com­mo­date the pro­posed chitin pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity.

The fa­cil­ity is ex­pected to oper­ate 24 hours a day for ap­prox­i­mately eight months of the year, with a win­ter shut­down. Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to start this fall. The project comes with a hefty price tag, with es­ti­mates rang­ing from $5 mil­lion to $6.5 mil­lion.

In an ear­lier in­ter­view with The Com­pass, Quin­lan called the chitin plant “an­other link in the chain” to en­sure the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of its Bay de Verde op­er­a­tion.

Con­cerns ex­pressed

The Bay de Verde coun­cil voted 4-3 to grant ap­proval-in-prin­ci­ple to the project at a coun­cil meet­ing on March 3.

The coun­cil vote fol­lowed a lively pub­lic meet­ing at the town hall on Feb. 23, dur­ing which some 60 peo­ple lis­tened to com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Some res­i­dents have ex­pressed con­cerns about air emis­sions, the dis­charge of ef­flu­ent into the marine ecosys­tem, and the trans­port and use of haz­ardous chem­i­cals.

One coun­cil mem­ber, Jen­nie Riggs, be­lieves most res­i­dents are op­posed to the project, and she called on coun­cil to hold a plebiscite on the mat­ter.

The com­pany has as­sured res­i­dents all safety mea­sures will be taken.

Pre­vi­ous pro­posal

The com­pany ini­tially pro­posed to es­tab­lish the plant in Old Per­li­can, 12 kilo­me­tres away. Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Char­lene John­son ap­proved the en­vi­ron­men­tal pre­view re­port in March 2009.

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

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.

Ride­out in­di­cated an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment com­mit­tee will be ap­pointed within days. It will likely in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Pol­lu­tion Pre­ven­tion Divi­sion and Water Re­sources Divi­sion. It will have un­til Oct. 24 to pro­duce a set of EPR guide­lines.

Once the EPR is sub­mit­ted, the pub­lic will be no­ti­fied, af­ter which they will have 35 days to pro­vide com­ment. The min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion on the ac­cept­abil­ity of the EPR will be due within 45 days of its sub­mis­sion.

Pro­to­col in place

Quin­lan says the govern­ment’s re­quest for the EPR means “ we can’t do any­thing un­til we know what the govern­ment is go­ing to do ... You got a pro­to­col in place. It (means) more de­lays. Time is al­ways a fac­tor.

“ You can talk your­self blue in the face, but ... you have to get cer­tain cri­te­ria es­tab­lished from the govern­ment, and this is the main one.”

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