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Explosives storage proposal creates fireworks

by David Meyer

GRAND VALLEY - Resi­dents of East Luther Grand Vall­ey packed the township hall here on March 3 to hear and complain about the plan for a storage area for explosives.

The owner of the land is Klaus Friesecke, and Orica Mining Services is leasing it to store materials to make explo­sives. Its worldwide head­quarters is in Australia.

Many residents are adam­antly opposed to the plan, and the meeting lasted an hour longer than set so Orica proponents could answer questions.

Orica’s planner, Pierre Chau­vin said after that the com­pany heard a number of good suggestions from citizens and will try to incorporate them in its plan, which is not due to come to council until April.

The land is at emergency number 033411 on Sideroad 21-22, Concession 4 South of East Luther Grand Valley. Its designation is agri­cultural and environmental pro­tection, and the proposal is to change it to a special policed area and en­vironmental pro­tec­tion.

Chauvin said the company held the meeting to provide informa­tion and hear comments, and it was not required under the Planning Act. The property is 150 acres, and Ori­ca proposed to use about 27 acres. Two other companies pre­vi­ously operated there, with much smaller amounts of ex­plosives material involved.

Chauvin said buildings on the property are less than one per cent of the land, and in­clude a 10,000 litre fuel tank on a concrete pad, another holding 40 tons of explosives materials on a concrete pad, and another building holding up to 60 tons of ammonium nit­rate. He add­ed that deton­ators and boosters for the explosives are kept separate from those buildings.

It is near an old dump.

Chauvin said one reason for choosing the site is federal regulations. Storage is 1km away from houses, and the requirement is 760 metres. Most residences on the road are 1.5km away from the storage area.

The materials are kept separate, placed on trucks, taken to mining opera­tions, and mixed at those places. Detonators and explo­sion boosters travel on separate trucks.

Orica has five mobile mix­ing truck units, and they would each be outbound from the site once a day. The company has 17 employ­ees, and there would be up to three shipments of raw materials to the site per day, according to site manager Stan Harlan

The company is regulated by the federal explosives act, and it has been working with the Grand Valley Fire De­par­tment to implement an emergency plan in case of accidents.

The Emergency Response Guide calls for an evacuation zone of 800 metres, and Orica expanded it to 1.6km. The company is doing a phase one and two environmental study and site plan, as well as noise and traffic studies.

Chauvin said, “I understand there is a lot of concern. We hope to answer your questions.”

Angry citizens

The response from residents  ranged from angry to skeptical.

Several were upset the buildings the company wants were already erected prior to the zoning and official plan amendment. They were repeat­edly asked to give their names, but very few did. One checked with the OPP that day, and heard the police knew noth­ing about the proposal, or the emergency plan.

One complained there is a school downwind of the site with 199 pupils. “If something goes wrong ... ”

Another asked the com­pany to describe its environ­mental record. Harlen said the company has 34 similar locations in Can­ada, and “not one incident at a site.”

A resident asked why the company would not put the opera­tion on bedrock.

Chauvin said the site is on over 50 feet of clay. He added the Grand River Conservation Auth­ority has seen the plans and has no objection. The site, he added, is 500 metres away from Luther Marsh.

One citizen said it is crucial Grand Valley be protected. The town is about two kilometres away from the site.

One citizen was puzzled because friends with 88 acres wanted a granny suite with a kitchen and could not get it, but this is considered okay by the GRCA. Another resident com­plained about being denied a fence because of a location near the wetland.

A citizen asked what meas­ures are in place to keep the materials on site.

Harlan said Orica has wash bays for its trucks that is drained into an evaporator. Even the mud from trucks is isolated and the “residue de­stroyed.”

Someone asked what happens if a silo breaks. Harlan said the company would con­trol the spill.

Someone noted the area has been hit before by tornados.

“You people are risking the entire water supply of Ontario - and its going to kill us,” charged the resident.

There were also questions of liability. Residents noted that Orica is leasing the land and could simply walk away from a disaster. Several noted that there is little insurance pro­tection, and Grand Valley resi­dents would not be able to pay for a major disaster.

One man from East Gara­fraxa, downriver, said he check­ed with a Dufferin County official, and “This is the first he’s heard about it ... When I run out of water, who do I sue?”

One teenaged boy asked about security at the site, noting vandals had caused a major explosion in the United States.

Harlan said the site is secure, and trucks are equipped with a Global Positioning Sys­tem and a panic alarm.

Resident Peter Turrell had farmed the land, and noted the company has built a concrete pad over an uncapped well.

He added of the company’s emergency plan, “I’ve read your plan; it’s a joke.”

Residents also had concerns about traffic, truck routes, the amount of taxes that the com­pany will be paying.

One resident concluded, “I want council to vote this down.”

On April 14, council will hold a formal public meeting to consider the proposal at its council meeting at 7pm. Chauvin said the company will consider what it heard at the meeting to fine tune its proposals for the site.


Vol 42 Issue 11


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