Province likely to soon issue controversial burn permit

  • Jan. 24, 2005 5:00 p.m.

The province will soon issue a draft permit which if approved would allow Weyerhaeuser to burn waste wood at a site near Queen Charlotte, but residents who oppose the idea will then have 30 days to protest.
When Weyerhaeuser re-opened the Skidegate log sort at the west end of Queen Charlotte last spring, it applied to the Ministry of Air protection for a permit to burn waste wood in a quarry about 2 km west of town.
The permit would allow the company to burn waste wood a maximum of four times a year when environmental conditions allow. Each burn will be individually approved depending on the performance and environmental impact of the previous one, according to the ministry.
The Queen Charlotte management committee has been protesting the plan since it was first announced, and continues to oppose the burning of waste wood near town, said committee chair Anne Mountifield. “We’re concerned about the open burn because it will be situated in the airshed for Queen Charlotte and Skidegate and might possibly impact on the residents,” she said.
The committee is alarmed because a fire, which lasted eight months in the 1990s polluted the community’s air, and they don’t want a similar incident again.
Between September 1996 and April 1997, a landfill fire broke out at the municipal garbage dump located near the quarry where Weyerhaeuser proposes to burn waste wood. “Smoke was drawn along the ridge and hung as a pall over Queen Charlotte and Skidegate,” said Ms Mountifield. The management committee is concerned the same thing could happen if Weyerhaeuser is allowed to burn in the proposed location.
Environmental protection officer Barbara Hall, of the Ministy Air Protection, said the proposed burn is relatively close to town, and “there is a history with the uncontrolled landfill fire in 1996/97 which has sparked people’s concern.” The amount of concern expressed is expected in this situation, she said.
The committee also objects to the wastefulness of the burning, said Ms Mountifield. It suggests Weyerhaeuser leave waste wood in the forest, make it available to the community for woodstoves, or chip it and haul it away to a pulp mill.
Rolf Bettner of Queen Charlotte says open burning anywhere’s a bad idea, and wants it stopped everywhere on the islands. Aside from the release of greenhouse gases, said Mr. Bettner, the residue is never properly dealt with. The process sterilizes the soil in the area of the burn, and the smoke releases particles and toxins into the atmosphere. The wood waste should be left in the forest to decompose naturally and fertilize the forest, said Mr. Bettner.
Weyerhaeuser is making an effort to leave more wood waste on the ground rather than hauling it to the log sort, said company superintendent Garth Johnson. As a consequence, the company hasn’t had to burn any waste wood yet. So far, 17,000 cubic meters of the total 35,000 cubic meters of timber the company plans to log from the south end of Graham Island has passed through the sort. Mr. Johnson predicts there will be enough material accumulated for one burn at the end of the process. Weyerhaeuser still does need the permit though, said Mr. Johnson, because it will have waste wood to burn.
As well as leaving waste wood in the forest, the company has also provided quite a bit of waste wood to the Queen Charlotte school grads for their firewood sales, said Mr. Johnson.
The management committee delegated two members, Mark Salzl and Eric Ross, to attend the next open burn at Weyerhaeuser’s Ferguson Bay site, said Mr. Johnson, but so far no burn has been needed there. The company will notify the committee when a burn is planned.
The company also asked to reactivate another permit for a wood residue landfill nearby. It is a major amendment to an old permit. “For any issuance of a new permit or major amendment to an existing permit, the public always has an opportunity to appeal, said Mark Love, Ministry of Water, Land and Air protection spokesperson.
Mr. Love expects the draft permits to be given to Weyerhaeuser around February 4. Copies will be sent to the Queen Charlotte management committee. Anyone who wishes to appeal the permits can do so in writing to the Environmental Appeal Board within 30 days, he said.