Maple Leaf plant no environmental threat, officials say
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.”
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.