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Residents concerned about explosives company moving in next to Luther Marsh

by David Meyer

GRAND VALLEY - A number of residents from this community are concerned that an official plan amendment and zone change for a multi-nation­al explosives company could endanger the entire Grand River watershed.

An open house is set for March 3 at the East Luther Grand Valley Township office, at 5 Main Street North in Grand Valley, to hear comments about the proposal.

Resident Mark Thorpe said in an interview that about 10 to 12 years ago, a small opera­tion began on the property, with a small shed being used to store ammonium nitrate, an ex­plosive.

But, he said, Orica - a huge multinational explosives and mining supply com­pany - is now operating there, and nobody was notified of the change.He said the company has “two big silos for storage” and added that four large trucks carrying about 60,000 tonnes of material visit the site every day.

Thorpe said the ammonium nitrate there is not the farm ferti­lizer that many would think of when considering that sub­stance. It is used for blasting.

He said last week a tractor trailer car­rying blasting caps jack­knifed while visiting the site.

Thorpe said what irks him is all other landowners have to abide by every envi­ronmental rule, and it seems Orica can do whatever it proposes.

“This is about the most dangerous thing they could put there,” Thorpe said. He added there is an uncapped well on the property, which sits close to the Luther Marsh aquifer, and a nearby stream that feeds the Grand River.

The owner of the land is Klaus Friesecke, and Orica, with its worldwide head­quarters in Australia, is being represented by Chris Pattison.

The land is at emergency number 033411 on Sideroad 21-22, Concession 4 South. Its current designation is agri­cultural and environmental pro­tection, and the proposal is to change that to a special policed area and environmental pro­tec­tion.

On April 14, council will hold another public meeting to consider the proposal at its council meeting at 7pm.

The March 3 meeting is from 7 to 8:30pm and will begin with a presentation by the ap­pli­cants’ consultant, follow­ed by a question and answer peri­od. There will be information packages and an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the ap­plicant and the consulting team.

The purpose of the appli­ca­tion is to permit the con­tin­ued operation of the existing temp­or­ary explosive storage and distribution facility. The faci­lity operates under a federal lic­ence.

The notice placed on the township’s website states, “The zoning bylaw amendment would provide site specific permission for the use and site specific requirements. A site plan application has also been re­ceived for the development of the site.”

Another neighbour near the site is Peter Turrell, who says  the entire proposal is dan­gerous. He noted the loca­tion of the recent truck jackknifing was also the site of another one in December.

Turrell said one of the com­pany’s trucks blew up in Mex­ico in September of 2007, kill­ing 27 people and injuring an­other 50.

“They drive through Well­ington County every day of the week with 40,000 kilos [in the load],” he added.

Turrell runs a company called Environmental Services, which does cleanups of envi­ron­mental messes. He said ammonium nitrate is soluble in water, and that is why the entire watershed could be affected if there is a spill and it reaches the water or the aquifer.

As well, he said if it burns it gives off toxic gas.

“In every country but Canada it is a known cause of stomach cancer,” Turrell said, adding he fears a major accident “would wipe out the aquifer.”

He said Luther Marsh is the most significant aquifer in southern Ontario, and he has been trying to generate interest from municipalities down­stream that get their drink­ing water from the Grand River.

“We’re trying to get ans­wers,” he said of the proposal.

Thorpe’s wife, Sue Gross­venor, said she would not ob­ject if the company built over bed­rock because that would afford the aquifer some protec­tion.

She added that she is not impressed with Orica’s safety record, and noted the company has changed its name several times.

“We find it a very inap­propriate site for a toxin,” said Turrell, adding, “I’m about to call the City of Brantford.”

East Luther Grand Valley Chief Administrative Officer Jane Wilson said the township has re­ceived “some complaints.”

She said the application is not to ex­pand the site for storage to 150 acres, as was been suggested by some of the neigh­bours - but she is not sure of the exact acreage.

She said the township plan­ner works only one day a week, Wednesdays, and she has the file.

Wilson said if there are a lot of questions to be asked, coun­cil deems it better to have an open house format so all of them can be answered, rather than in a formal public meet­ing, which will come later.

Attempts to reach Orica’s head office staff in Bownsburg-Chatham, Quebec were unsuc­cessful. Phone messages were not returned.


Vol 42 Issue 09


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