The hearing contesting an air-quality permit issued for a South Surrey hot-dip galvanizing plant resumed at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel this week, where the case for Metro Vancouver’s district director got underway before a panel of Environmental Appeal Board officials.
Scheduled for two weeks – this week and another in April – it continues proceedings that got underway last spring, initiated by area residents and non-profit groups concerned with the amount and nature of contaminants being emitted by the Ebco Metal Finishing Ltd. facility, located in the 18500-block of 25 Avenue.
They’re seeking to have the permit cancelled.
Metro’s first witness was Dr. Katherine Preston, who is the lead senior engineer of the region’s environmental regulation enforcement division. Three other Metro staff – David Tiplady, Rob Kemp and Ray Robb – are also anticipated to give evidence; while four to five witnesses are expected to provide evidence on Ebco’s behalf, including chief operating officer Edwin Eppich, who is the nephew of Ebco founder Hugo Eppich.
Much of Monday entailed having Preston review Metro’s process and procedures around issuing air-quality permits, however, the morning began with notice to the board by one of the appellants regarding a possible application for interim relief, pending results of a necropsy on a foal that died Saturday (Feb. 1).
“This is three out of four,” Frank Mueggenburg – whose property is located just south of the galvanizing plant – told the panel, referring to results of other recent mare pregnancies on his farm, one of which was cited during last year’s proceedings.
“This is rather upsetting. We’ve got all the experts that we know of to assist us” in determining the cause of the latest death.
Results of the mare’s blood-work reveals only that it “was a traumatic event,” Mueggenburg added.
Neither of the previous foal deaths cited have been conclusively linked to emissions from the Ebco facility, Mueggenburg later confirmed to Peace Arch News.
Impact of the emissions is at the centre of residents’ concerns with the facility. They first contacted PAN about it in early 2015, citing the proximity of such a plant to nearby East Kensington Elementary, as well as a lack of public notice around it.
Surrey city council approved a bylaw regulating the 25 Avenue site for “light impact industry” in November 2012, following a public hearing, and a development permit was issued in July 2014.
In May 2016, the EAB issued a stay of a short-term permit that had been granted Ebco by Metro Vancouver, citing concerns ranging from the potential adverse effect of emissions on human, animal and plant life, to the potential impact on a food-distribution society.
Early 2018, however, Metro issued Ebco a 15-year permit to discharge contaminants including zinc, nickel and particulate matter.
Ebco officials have maintained that residents need not be concerned about pollution associated with the plant’s operations.
However, Carl Thielemann – who has operated an organic farm on 184 Street for the past 45 years – told PAN Monday that he and his wife remain extremely concerned, particularly for the health of children in the neighbourhood.
A second request by Mueggenburg Monday, for Ebco to produce records of complaints fielded in connection with operations that have continued since the hearing was adjourned last year – with an aim to looking at how weather patterns correlate to the complaints – was criticized by Ebco counsel Nicholas Hughes.
Hughes described the ask as “essentially a fishing expedition,” and asked the board to consider limiting it to dates on which Mueggenburg had complained of an odour from the facility, “as opposed to a visual observation.”
Metro Vancouver counsel Susan Rutherford suggested that air-quality testing also be done inside Mueggenburg’s barn.