Maple Leaf plant no en­vi­ron­men­tal threat, of­fi­cials say

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - NOR­MAN DE BONO

A London an­i­mal rights group is rais­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns about Maple Leaf Foods’ pro­posed $660-mil­lion London plant, look­ing to cre­ate aware­ness on the im­pact of emis­sions and sewage from the fa­cil­ity.

The Lib­er­a­tion Front — also known as the An­i­mal Lib­er­a­tion Al­liance — has reg­is­tered its ob­jec­tions to the planned 60,000 square me­tre, Wil­ton Grove Road chicken-pro­cess­ing plant with the En­vi­ron­men­tal Reg­istry of On­tario.

The group says the plant that will open in 2020 with a workforce of ap­prox­i­mated 1,450 will af­fect area barn swal­lows and nearby en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive wet­lands and pro­duce emis­sions.

“We want to raise aware­ness of the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences of this,” group spokesper­son Matt Sch­wab said Mon­day.

“We aren’t sat­is­fied with ev­ery­thing that has been done, we hope the (En­vi­ron­ment) Min­istry re­views this, we hope the pub­lic be­comes aware.”

But the plant’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact has been stud­ied and re­viewed over two years with ap­proval from the On­tario En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry, the city, the Up­per Thames River Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity and a pri­vate en­gi­neer­ing firm, said Kapil Lakho­tia, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the London Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp.

A 2016 en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact study re­viewed the en­gi­neer­ing and im­pact of the plant, he said. That was fol­lowed by an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment and a hy­dro­ge­o­log­i­cal study on waste wa­ter and stormwa­ter.

“Maple Leaf Foods has been very proac­tive, es­pe­cially on the stormwa­ter man­age­ment side, they are min­i­miz­ing the de­vel­op­ment as much as pos­si­ble, the wet­lands will not be cut off,” said Chris McIn­tosh, in­dus­trial land en­gi­neer with the city.

Among is­sues raised by the an­i­mal rights group:

• The site is home to at least 20 en­dan­gered barn swal­low nests.

• Stormwa­ter will flow into the West­min­ster wet­lands area and Ten­ants Pond, both en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive ar­eas.

• Waste wa­ter will flow into the mu­nic­i­pal san­i­tary sewer on Wil­ton Grove Road.

• The plant will pro­duce ni­tro­gen ox­ides and par­tic­u­late mat­ter.

But the city and Maple Leaf have ad­dressed those is­sues, McIn­tosh said. Barn swal­low struc­tures have been built for the birds and the city’s sewer can han­dle the waste wa­ter flow. Storm wa­ter runoff will not af­fect the wet­lands, he said.

The plant will slaugh­ter live chick­ens, process the meat and pack­age it for ship­ping.

While the project has won sup­port from en­vi­ron­men­tal agen­cies, Sch­wab wants Lon­don­ers to know about the pos­si­ble im­pact.

“We’d like to see the pub­lic brought more into the loop. It’s great the city has looked it over, but the pub­lic should be aware.

Maple Leaf will close three plants in On­tario, two in the Toronto area and one in St. Marys, over the next two years to con­sol­i­date pro­duc­tion in London.

When Maple Leaf an­nounced the plant, it said it will be state-of-the-art in terms of food pro­cess­ing tech­nol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, es­pe­cially in ar­eas of worker and food safety and “an­i­mal care.”

MIKE HENSEN/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Maple Leaf Foods is build­ing a $660-mil­lion chicken pro­cess­ing plant on Wil­ton Grove Road, just east of High­bury Av­enue, in London. A group of city res­i­dents has reg­is­tered their con­cerns with the prov­ince over how the fa­cil­ity could neg­a­tively af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment.

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