Letting Alcan increase S02 emissions would be wrong

Prospect would affect the growing interest in local agriculture

An open letter to:

Katherine Voigt

Director Environmental Protection

Smithers, BC,

Dear Katherine Voigt:

I am very concerned about Alcan’s recent posting for an application to almost double its sulphur dioxide emissions in connection with their modernization program. This application is for an increase of sulphur dioxide emissions from 27 Mg/d to 42 Mg/d. (See The Terrace Standard, Feb 27, 2013, page A27).

The high Coastal Mountains of the region coupled with prevailing westerly winds dictates that this discharge will typically end up in a much smaller geographical area than is normally the case. This development could have a dramatic effect on our over-all quality of life including our farming and bakery operation.

As the rain washes sulphur dioxide out of the atmosphere or snow melts in the spring we will end up living with our own “made in Northwest BC” acid rain conditions. These acidic conditions could potentially greatly affect birches, maples, fruit trees, berries and vegetable production. On the human side we do not know how great this effect will be, yet it will most certainly directly affect people with respiratory problems, the young and the elderly. Given the direction of wind that frequently comes our way from the Douglas Channel, we could go from having reasonably great air, to very poor air quality, reduced livability and greatly reduced agricultural growing conditions.

The increase in sulphur dioxide emissions has a direct impact on me as an asthmatic person and on my ability to grow fruit trees, berries and raise vegetables on our rural property, River Mist Farm, located on Braun’s Island.

Fruit trees, berries and most vegetables do not like highly acidic soil conditions. The accumulation of SO2 on the snow cover over the winter will leach into my soils come spring. In addition, rains will wash this acid rain out of the atmosphere on a continual basis.

We are growing vegetables for local consumption and sell produce at the Skeena Valley Farmer’s Market, we sell to local restaurants and through farm gate sales and we also use berries, fruit and vegetables from our farm in our bakery, Baker Extraordinaire. I am also becoming involved in commercial fruit tree propagation and sales. This increased SO2 proposal also puts my fruit tree propagation business interests at risk.

A change in SO2 emissions of this magnitude should not be allowed. It is a direct threat to present and future gardening and farming operations in the Skeena Valley. This potential change has the impact to alter the present and future economy and livability of the Skeena Valley as it is a very, very unique micro climate in Northern BC.

Given its unique position, between the moderating effect of the BC North Coast, and the heat and cold of the BC Interior – Terrace experiences an average of 145 frost free days per year, and during most years it also achieves sufficient heat units to grow a wide variety of crops. For instance, during most years in Terrace gardeners and farmers can grow sweet cherries, the majority of apples, plus pears, plums and quality heat loving vegetables such as sweet corn, green beans, squash and pumpkins. This is a highly unique agricultural area, for no other area this far north in North America allows such a wide range of fruit, berry and vegetable production.

Many people choose to live here in the Terrace area because of the unique wide range of gardening and farming possibilities that exist here. The next nearest place that you can grow such a wide range of fruit trees, for instance, is Cache Creek in the interior or in the Bella Colla Valley along the Mid Coast.

In addition, the Agricultural Area Plan that is currently being developed for the Terrace area by the City of Terrace and the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District spells out that an increase in agriculture is possible and highly desirable in this locality. The potential increase in SO2 emissions mitigates against the possibility of increased agriculture in the Skeena Valley and has the potential to affect the economic future of the Terrace area.

As a couple my wife and I are concerned that this potential application to increase SO2 emissions jeopardizes our personal health and will directly affect both our farm, River Mist Farm, and our bakery, Baker Extraordinaire, for we are producing fruit, fruit trees, berries and vegetables on Braun’s Island.

I strongly urge you not to permit Alcan to increase their SO2 emissions.

Charles H. Claus

Terrace B.C.,