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Community group will protest gasification plant Thursday

A community group against the proposed Port Fuels gasification plant will be protesting against the project this week.

Group worried about potential health risks the gasification plant will bring to Hamilton residents

A community group against the proposed Port Fuels gasification plant will be protesting against the project this week.

The group Trash the Garbage Plant will be protesting Thursday on the northeast corner of Sherman and Burlington streets at 4 p.m.

The group is made up of residents from both the immediate neighbourhood of the proposed plant and residents from other Hamilton neighbourhoods that are against the energy-from-waste plant coming to the city.

Trash the Garbage Plant hopes to raise awareness at the protest about what they say are potentially dangerous health and environmental impacts that could be caused by the plant.

"We're very upset about the prospect of this unproven technology being slipped into our city," said Kate Andrus, spokesperson for Trash the Garbage Plant and chair of Coalition against Pollution.

Hamilton gasification plant needs independent review, report warns 

The plant would be on Pier 15 land owned by the Hamilton Port Authority. It would use a process called “plasma gasification,” which uses extremely high temperatures to break down waste into its atomic elements and turn it into gas.

An environmental screening report from Port Fuels Materials Services says the plant meets federal and provincial guidelines for air quality, water quality and other environmental factors.

But Andrus doesn't buy it. She doesn't think Hamilton residents have have been properly informed on the plant's technology and environmental impact. 

"How can we make an informed decision when what is being publicized is information from the company itself?" said Andrus.

Port Fuels has used the technology at a test plant in Swindon, UK, but that operation only processes 625 tonnes of waste per year. The proposed plant in Hamilton would convert some 200,000 tonnes of imported waste per year into electricity.

How can we make an informed decision when what is being publicized is information from the company itself?- Kate Andrus

"It was completely experimental in nature. We were told they had experience, they don't have any experience in this type of operation," Andrus says.

Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader and MPP for Hamilton Centre, has called the plant "a science project" while WSP Canada, the consultant group hired by the city to review Port Fuel's environmental screening report has warned the plant "may not have been properly assessed."

WSP questions whether the conclusions in the company's environmental report from the pilot project would apply to the larger scale operation proposed for Hamilton. The plant proposed for the waterfront will be the first commercial scale operation of the technology in the world. 

Robert Clark, the Chief Operating Officer of Port Fuels and Material Services Inc., previously told CBC Hamilton that his company welcomes the WSP Canada review and his company is already working with the consultant to address concerns.

"We’re more than anxious and willing to work with them in their review process," Clark told CBC Hamilton.

"We’re very confident that when people get into the technical review that there will not be an issue."

City council will debate the issue at a meeting Wednesday.

Meanwhile another neighbourhood group for the community located near the proposed location, The Keith Community Hub, has said it's in favour of the plant and welcomes the jobs it will create.

But Andrus says that group does not reflect the feelings of the entire neighbourhood and the Hamilton community at large.

"We don't need to risk the health of our citizens for 20 to 40 jobs," said Andrus.

"I understand we need jobs in Hamilton. My own son is one of the victims of the industrial shutdown, but we are past that, we no longer are willing to risk peoples lives for a paycheque. We are still paying for those mistakes. We know better now," said Andrus.

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