City council heard about a proposed Air Permit amendment

Quesnel Sawmill manager Chris Finch outlined equipment changes and impact on city air shed

West Fraser Mills Ltd. is in the process of making a multi-million-dollar investment in the City of Quesnel, but it needs an Air Permit amendment.

Quesnel Sawmill manager Chris Finch appeared before a council meeting on Nov. 21.

He gave a presentation on the proposed West Fraser Quesnel Air Permit amendment and talked about what it would mean for the city’s air shed.

Finch’s presentation was part of the public consultation process directed by the Environment Act.

Quesnel Sawmill is seeking an Air Permit amendment because it is making changes to its processing equipment, and wants change its operation status from five to seven days a week.

Finch said the company wants the operations-status change to ensure shutdown and startup operations and occasional overtime shifts are included in the permit.

Several times during the presentation, Finch emphasized the company doesn’t have any plans to go to a seven-day-a-week operation.

The company also wants include a cyclone, which Finch said was installed in 2012 for dust mitigation for the health and safety of employees, included in the permit.

Quesnel Sawmill wants to replace three low-efficiency cyclones inside the mill with two high-efficiency cyclones outside, as part of the dust mitigation project, he explained.

“If there is an incident with one of the cyclones, it would be better off being outside rather than inside the mill facility.”

Finch said they are requesting the cyclone operation be changed from five days 24 hours a day to 24 hours a day seven days a week.

He added the pollution abatement equipment would continue to operate until early Saturday morning to capture any emissions that might occur after Friday night’s shutdown.

“The cyclones are restarted Sunday night ahead of Monday morning startup to ensure it’s fully operational [before the morning shift starts].”

This abatement process is not captured in the existing permit.

The company has just completed converting its Batch Kiln to a continuous dry kiln because the company has moved from dead/dry pine to green logs.

Quesnel Sawmill is in the process constructing a new dry kiln because it will be milling greener fibre and increasing lumber production. The new kiln will be installed with an evaporator to deal with condensation in the kiln.

Under the Ministry of Environment (MOE) calculations, Finch said the air permit amendment will result in an estimated increase of Total Particulate and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) emitted to be approximately 225 tonnes per year.

He added the new kiln adds about 79 tonnes of Total Particulate and VOCs annually.

“The [MOE] made its calculations based on seven days a week 365 days a year. We do not run seven days a week 365 days a year.

“A cyclone is permitted for 115 milligrams per cubic metres of air discharge and we typically run much lower than that.”

Finch said if something went wrong in the mill, the company would be within its permitted limits, so it could deal with that issue.

Councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg noted the Amended Permitted Sources table showed the Net Change in Discharge was 24 per cent, and asked if that was based on seven days a week 365 day a year.

Finch said it was and that would be at the maximum.

Roodenburg said she thought was an important point for people to hear because they would probably be shocked when they saw a 24 per cent increase.

The mill manager explained the way the MOE does its calculations would be a worst-case scenario.

“I quickly did some math, and if you take it to the time we actually run, it’s about an eight-and-a-half to nine per cent increase versus 24 per cent.”

He added the MOE calculation is also based on the batch kiln that does vent, but the continuous kiln doesn’t vent.

Mayor Bob Simpson asked Finch if he could tell council the value of the investment that is being made by West Fraser Mills.

Finch said the investment in the cyclones is “around $1.9 million and the new kiln is “considerably more than that.”

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