Nova Scotia

No timeline for decision on tire burning proposal

The provincial government has no timeline for when it will make a decision about a cement plant's proposal to burn tires as fuel after the expected date came and went.

Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield, N.S., wants to burn tires in its kiln as fuel replacement

The Nova Scotia Environment Department gave the green light last month to a pilot project that will see a cement plant burn tires as fuel. (CBC)

The deadline for a judgment from the province about a proposal to burn tires at a Brookfield, N.S., cement plant has come and gone and there's no indication when the decision will be made.

The Environment Department had said a decision was expected in early May on the proposal by Lafarge Canada, however the provincial election seems to have changed that plan.

On Wednesday, a department spokeswoman could not give any new information about the timeline for a decision. Environment Minister Margaret Miller was not available for an interview.

Tires would help replace coal

Lafarge's proposal is to burn about 20 tonnes of locally sourced tires per day in its kiln as fuel as part of a yearlong pilot project. It's a proposal the company has made in the past, without success. It says the process would help reduce the operation's greenhouse gases because right now it uses coal as fuel.

The project would include a research component in partnership with Dalhousie University.

Lafarge Canada spokeswoman Karine Cousineau said a favourable response from the province would mean the trial could start shortly after that and results would be shared with the community.

"Then we'll see what the next steps are," she said.

"We want to make sure the population — our neighbours — are aware of every single step."

Neighbours remain skeptical

Cousineau said lab testing has showed the process to be safe and the next step is full-scale trials.

But some neighbours remain unconvinced. Lydia Sorflaten lives on nearby Shortts Lake and was involved with a group that fought against a similar proposal by Lafarge, which the then-Tory government rejected in 2007.

"Our concerns are the same now as they were then," she said.

Concerns about the kiln

Those concerns centre around the age of the site. If the kiln cannot maintain a high enough temperature to burn the tires entirely, said Sorflaten, it could mean the release of problematic emissions such as dioxins and furans.

There are plants in Europe that are built "with all of the bells and whistles" that allow for tires to be burned using the proper controls, she said. In those cases, the tires are also usually shredded, which reduces the risk of inconsistencies in the temperature of the kiln.

Keep rolling with recycling

Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre, said the province already has an effective recycling program for tires, one that creates jobs. And it seems better to recycle tires than to burn them.

"If the choice was landfilling the tires or burning them, then we would give incineration or burning more serious consideration."

While he acknowledged there could be reductions in emissions at the plant by burning tires, there could be offsetting effects, Butler said. It could mean there are fewer tires available for use in construction projects.

"If we're going to burn tires instead of using them as a replacement for aggregate in construction, then you have to go and mine that aggregate from quarries, which has its own environmental impact and also has its own greenhouse gases associated with it."

Each kiln is different

Like Sorflaten, Butler has concerns about the kiln's ability to burn consistently at a high enough temperature to prevent pollutants from entering the environment.

Cousineau acknowledged that each kiln is different, but said that's why doing the pilot test is so important.

"If the results are not what we're expecting, this is not a project that we will go forth with."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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