Thursday, December 5, 2013

Health authories have serious concerns about Port Metro Vancouver's coal export study

Port Metro Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Docks are looking to expand US coal exports from our region. Metro Vancouver, municipalities, health authorities, and many citizens have concerns about the global and local environmental impact from the increased exporting, and therefor increased usage of coal which is one of the dirtiest and most greenhouse gas emission intense energy sources on the planet.

Besides the impact to the environment, there are serious concerns that coal dust and increased diesel emission from coal trains will have profound impact to human health in the region leading to conditions like asthma in our children and the premature death of seniors.

Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have called for a health impact assessment due to these serious concerns. The City of Surrey, White Rock, City of Langley, and others have called for a health impact assessment as well. The Port agreed to complete an environmental and health impact assessment for the proposed increase to coal exports. The new study was quietly released on October 24. It appears that our region’s health authorities were not impressed. According to a joint November 13th letter from Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities:

1. The SNC-Lavalin report is primarily a repackaging of work previously done by other consultants, primarily Levelton Consultants Inc., with limited additional analyses to address concerns raised by ourselves, the public and local governments.

2. Most of the conclusions in the report about potential environmental and health impacts rely upon modeling work done by Levelton i.e. “Air Quality Assessment”. We are concerned about the underlying assumptions that informed that model, which were not assessed critically by SNC-Lavelin.

3. The assessment of potential health impacts is particularly disappointing, and receives minimal attention in the document. Of note, much greater consideration is given to the potential effects of the project on plants, fish and wildlife than to people. The report does not meet even the most basic requirements of a health impact assessment. SNC-Lavalin has included a 4-page summary describing general air toxins and their known health effects, but no link to this project. The appendix includes a short letter written by a toxicologist, Dr. Leonard Ritter, with his opinion about the potential health impacts of coal dust. The letter is based on the assumption that the Levelton model is accurate, and includes only a single reference pertaining to the potential health impacts of coal dust. No discussion is included of any other potential health impacts. This single toxicologist’s opinion does not meet the standards of a health impact assessment.

4. The report does not deal with the full scope of the project, from the time coal crosses the Canadian border to its transport and loading at Texada Island.

Based on these shortfalls, this report adds little to the information we require to determine the potential health impacts of the project and does not allow us to address legitimate concerns raised by members of the public and local governments.

It is worth reading the full eight page letter.

Because of the lack of transparency for the proposed increase in coal exports from Fraser Surrey Docks, various citizen groups have setup the website which provide information on the environmental assessment processes and provides a way to send your comments to the Port. As it turn out, there are only 12 days left to submit feedback on the EIA. I recommend that you send feedback as the Port needs to do more studies on the impacts to the health and quality of life in our region due to increased coal exports.

1 comment:

H. Newman said...

Just a small point to correct...

Unlike the other cities of the region, White Rock's resolution did not call for a HIA or an EIA. White Rock voted unanimously to completely oppose the Fraser Surrey Docks' coal terminal.

I know this because I am the one who wrote and presented the resolution to White Rock council.