More scrutiny for proposed chitin plant
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.
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.
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.”