South Surrey residents worried about air quality as new rubber plant planned

Metro Vancouver says the Weir Canada Inc. plant is a state-of-the-art facility that will emit fewer pollutants than a single wood-burning fireplace.

Metro Vancouver says health concerns about emissions from Weir Canada Inc. plant are unwarranted

Joanna Tucker is worried about emissions from the Weir Canada Inc. rubber plant on 34A Avenue in Surrey, B.C. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Some South Surrey residents want Metro Vancouver to revoke the permit it issued to a new rubber plant saying its emissions will pollute their neighbourhood.

"Allowing this type of pollution is absolutely mind boggling," said Frank Mueggenburg, a local farmer.

Metro Vancouver issued an environmental protection notice for the Weir Canada Inc. plant, located at 34A  Avenue.

The plant already exists, but the company is retrofitting its operations and sought the permit to discharge contaminants.

The notice describes the plant as a state-of-the-art facility.

It will replace two older facilities, one in Richmond and one in Delta, to produce rubber coatings for pipes, valves and pumps used in the mining sector and oil sands.

The new facility will emit several hazardous air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and volatile organic compounds or VOCs, according to Metro Vancouver's notice.

The regional district has said the facility will use the best available technology, and the emissions it produces will not have a substantial impact.

Application amended

"The important thing here is that one wood-burning fireplace emits more harmful air contaminants than all of the permitted emissions for this entire facility," said Ray Robb, the district director for Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver says Weir first submitted its proposal to run the plant in August 2016, but after public consultations, the application was amended to reduce the level of potential emissions.

The company did not respond to a request for an interview.

Weir Canada Inc.'s new manufacturing facility on 34A Avenue consolidates two older facilities previously located in Richmond and Delta. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

That's still not good enough for local residents like Joanna Tucker.

"We're shocked and my children are going to be breathing in this air every day," Tucker said, who operates an outdoor school program in the area.

"I've got 30 kids there that are going to be breathing in these pollutants every day. So we're concerned."

'We're just farmers and ordinary people, we're trying to research what these chemicals I can't even pronounce actually are and do to us,' says Surrey B.C. farmer Frank Meuggenburg. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Residents such as Tucker and Mueggenburg hope to garner enough support to have Weir's permit from Metro Vancouver revoked.

"We're just private citizens and we're having to fight legal battles that are way over our heads," said Mueggenburg. "We're gonna give it a good shot."

They have until early December — 30 days from when the environmental protection notice was made public — to make their case.

Metro Vancouver operates air quality monitoring stations around the region. The closest one to the Weir plant is at 72 Avenue and 190 Street.

Residents can also use an online form to make air quality complaints to the regional district.

With files from Jon Hernandez.