Hamilton residents can expect more visible emission from ArcelorMittal Dofasco's facility over the next week.

The company advised community stakeholders on Friday visible emissions may occur over the next week as it embarks on the next stage of its coke plant restoration project.

'All efforts will be made to minimize the environmental impact of the flare.' - Jim Stirling, AMD general manager of environment

The advisory came on the same day that Environment Hamilton accused the Ministry of Environment of giving the company a free pass on pollution for the next five years as it undertakes an $87 million upgrade to its operation.

For the next week the local steelmaker will be replacing the pipes at one of its byproducts plants. As a result, the coke oven gas that is normally consumed at the byproducts plant would be flared through the two batteries at its No. 2 coke plant instead.

“Although the batteries are centrally located in our facility, the flares may be visible to the community and there may be some occasional visible emissions as the flares are managed,” Jim Stirling, the company's general manager of environment, told community stakeholders in a statement on Friday.

“All efforts will be made to minimize the environmental impact of the flare," he said.

The potential for the visible flares started Saturday and will continue until the end of the day on June 27.

The Ministry of the Environment is aware of the planned work, Stirling added.

Matters resolved

The company was fined $390,000 in May after pleading guilty to a series of environmental charges for violating air quality standards.

Friday, Environment Hamilton revealed an email exchange with the ministry in which a ministry spokesperson said the pleas and fines recent gulilty plea by the company mean the ministry says it does not intend to pursue further investigation into the coke plant "that may or may not result in charges," during the five-year period the company has promised to fix the problems.

The spokesperson wrote that "the guilty plea resolves these matters."

However late Friday, in response to the accusation, the ministry it said it would monitor the company's progress and "would continue to investigate and prosecute where appropriate."

Guilty pleas

The pipework  repair is part of the company's $87 million investment in major restoration at its No.2 and No.3 coke plants over the next five years.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco's Hamilton facility has three coke plants, where coal is used to produce coke, a fuel for the facility's three blast furnaces. It is in the process to phase out its No.1 coke plant by March 2015. Shutting down the 56-year-old plants with three batteries and 105 ovens would result in permanent improvement in local air emissions, the company said.

The No.2 coke plant, commissioned in 1971, has two batteries and 106 ovens. The No.3 coke plant, commissioned in 1978, has one battery with 35 ovens.

The facility also houses three byproducts plants, which are responsible for the production of coke oven gas, tar, light oil and ammonia sulphate, as well as the removal of ammonia.

The Ministry of the Environment laid 13 charges against the company in March 2013 for air emission violations at its coke plants between April and August 2012. The ministry alleged that the company exceeded visible emissions (opacity) levels set by the province. 

The outcome came after more than a year of delay-plagued court proceedings. The company pleaded guilty to six out of 13 charges. The remaining seven charges were withdrawn.