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Residents file court challenge of tire-burning pilot project in Nova Scotia

Last Updated Aug 16, 2017 at 4:21 pm EST

HALIFAX – A group of residents who live near a cement plant that plans to burn tires as fuel has launched a court challenge arguing the Nova Scotia government’s approval of the project violated its Environment Act.

In his application for a judicial review, lawyer William Mahody writes that Environment Minister Iain Rankin didn’t properly assess the impact of emissions from the Lafarge plant in Brookfield on surrounding areas.

There is “strong potential for adverse effects” on surface water, human health and wildlife from the project, he says.

Lydia Sorflaten, Allan Sorflaten, Jim Harpell and Kendall McCulloch, who live on a lake about 500 metres from the Brookfield plant, and Fred Blois, who lives about 10 kilometres to the northwest, applied for the judicial review last Friday.

The province’s waste diversion agency has shifted a supply of at least 280,000 tires annually to Lafarge, and the province recently approved the company’s environmental application for a one-year pilot project to incinerate the tires as fuel.

The decision has run into criticism from environmental groups, municipal councils and area residents, who managed to prevent a similar proposal a decade ago.

The residents’ application in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia argues that the latest approval is unreasonable because it fails to protect ecosystems and “the principle of pollution prevention and waste reduction.”

It says the July 6 decision also runs contrary to environmental principles by shifting the tires away from a recycling company to be burned instead.

Lafarge says it can’t comment on the judicial review.

However, Robert Cumming, the environmental director at Lafarge, says research done off-site by a Dalhousie University engineer suggests the use of scrap tires will lower the plant’s carbon emissions.

“Lafarge continues to emphasize all evidence points to lower emissions from tire derived fuel at cement plants compared to fossil fuels,” he wrote.

“Our pilot project seeks to validate this evidence gathered from scientific reports and in Dalhousie University laboratories. The research team and Lafarge have committed to sharing the results with the community.”

Cumming has previously said publicly that it’s expected emissions of dioxins and furans — which studies have found to be carcinogenic — will be below levels harmful to human health.

The citizens’ group has countered that there’s considerable uncertainty over what acceptable levels may be, and that the company and government approach fails to take a precautionary approach.

Lydia Sorflaten said in an interview that the funding source for the citizens group’s legal challenge is confidential.

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