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An investigation into atmospheric emissions from the McInnis cement plant

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec4,2023

After several recent infractions, Ciments St. Marys could still be sanctioned.

A survey on atmospheric emissions from the McInnis cement plant

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The McInnis Cement plant in Port-Daniel–Gascons (Archive photo)

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Fined this fall for dumping wastewater into Chaleur Bay whose sediment content exceeded 12 times the standard, Ciments St. Marys is once again in the crosshairs of the Ministry of the Environment. Quebec is investigating atmospheric emissions that occurred in 2020 and 2021 at the Port-Daniel–Gascons cement plant.

The impacts of these emissions on health nevertheless remain , according to the Regional Public Health Directorate, difficult to gauge accurately.

The parameters that have exceeded the standard are particles emitted into the atmosphere and nitrogen dioxides (NO2) in equivalent of nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2), confirms by email the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP), adding that these exceedances vary from one to three times the norm.

These are gases which come from the combustion, obviously, of limestone and other materials which are mixed to create clinker, which will eventually give cement. This also includes the fumes from the fuel that is used, which is essentially petroleum coke, summarizes the doctor specializing in public health and preventive medicine, Yv Bonnier Viger.

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Nitrogen oxides are also one of the main pollutants resulting from the combustion of gasoline engines. (File photo)

These exceedances were noted following verification of the data transmitted by the factory for the years 2020 and 2021. The company is in fact required to sample the atmospheric emissions from its chimneys as well as its dust collectors over a annual basis, based on an established program.

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If Quebec confirms having issued a notice of non-compliance on March 18, 2022 in link with these releases, the cement plant explains that it was informed about it some three months later.

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Sticky dust was observed on several occasions by residents living near the cement plant. (File photo)

The MELCCFP specifies that these fumes are not linked to the sticky dust which has sporadically been observed by neighbors of the cement plant since 2020. It must, however, limit its comments on this subject due to the ongoing investigation.

At the end of this investigation, if it concludes that an offense has been committed, recommendations may be made to the [Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions] and it will be up to the latter to determine whether there is reason to initiate criminal proceedings for offenses against the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) or its regulations.

A quote from Extract from an email from the Ministry of the Environment

According to Ciments St. Marys, the exceedances under investigation are included in the order signed by the MELCC in September 2022, which requires the company to apply corrective measures to stop emissions of dust in the atmosphere. The details surrounding the various events that led Quebec to resort to this order had not yet been specified.

L&#x27 ;company explains that these releases are linked to malfunctions of certain equipment, including dust collectors.

Ciments St. Marys specifies that its equipment has undergone, since the ministry's order, a rigorous inspection process and that it has since implemented corrective actions according to the schedule agreed with the Ministry.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Breathing nitrogen dioxide can, in the long run, accelerate asthma phenomena, underlines Dr. Yv Bonnier Viger, regional public health director for Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine. People with cardiorespiratory problems and pregnant women, who need a greater volume of quality air, are likely to suffer more of the effects.

However, the specialist doctor explains that the potential consequences on the health of the population remain extremely difficult to gauge, since an exhaustive analysis would require measures which are not available.

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The regional director of public health, Dr Yv Bonnier-Viger (Archive photo)

Dr. Bonnier Viger explains that the concentrations are measured at the outlet of the chimneys and that it therefore remains risky to draw conclusions, particularly because of the winds and their direction.

To make a real measurement and have an idea of ​​the problems that risk affecting people's health, we must have sensors there where people actually breathe.

A quote from Yv Bonnier Viger, regional director of public health in Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine

When this came out, did this thing go to the bay? Did it go to the Gulf or to a community further away than Port-Daniel? We don’t know, he adds.

What reassures me a little is that the ministry is doing its job, replies the doctor when asked whether he considers these atmospheric emissions worrying. It's certain that if we had wanted to create something that improves people's health, we wouldn't have made a cement factory, but we need cement, says the health professional.

The issue of nitrogen oxides was not addressed during the meeting organized by the regional public health department in August 2022, which focused specifically on sticky dust and its effects on health. We did not have the data from the chimneys at that time, explains Dr. Bonnier Viger.

Cements St. Marys was fined $12,000 in September for discharging water into Chaleur Bay in April 2021 wastewater with a sediment content of 380 mg/l.

This episode is in addition to a $10,000 sanction imposed on it in March for having emitted, on seven occasions in 2021, noise beyond the permitted limit at its Port-Daniel–Gascons factory. A cement plant subcontractor, who carried out illegal development work on Anse McInnis beach, Manutention Bellemare, was also fined $5,000 last spring.

The company also estimates that it has invested more than $10 million in measures aimed at improving the environmental performance of its Gaspé factory since it became responsible for the latter's activities in April 2021.

We are encouraged to see a considerable reduction in the number of environmental events when comparing 2023 to 2020, said a representative from Ciments St. Marys in an email. on Radio-Canada.

The neighbors of the McInnis cement plant are fed up

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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