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Air quality standards could impact DYEC

Regional staff say incinerator not major contributor of sulphur dioxide emissions, ministry should be investigating exceedances

Durham Region staff fear that changes to provincial air quality regulations will impact monitoring at the Durham York East Energy Centre.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Regional staff believe significant changes to provincial standards will likely lead to increased ambient air quality exceedances in the vicinity of the DYEC, and the province should take a lead role in investigating these incidents.

In a recent report to council, commissioner of works Susan Siopis states that ambient air quality standards for sulphur dioxide are to be lowered over a five-year phase-in period.

The current provincial standard of 690 micrograms per cubic metre will be changed to 100 micrograms per cubic metre under new regulations.

This measure is in response to the lowering of federal standards for ambient air quality standards.

There are currently four ambient air-monitoring stations in the vicinity of Durham-York Energy Centre.

According to Siopis’s report, results at these stations “remain well below the current standard of 690 micrograms per cubic metre.”

In addition, it is noted that sulphur dioxide emissions from the DYEC measured at the stack as part of the Continuous Emissions Monitoring System and bi-annually as part of stack tests.

The report states testing regular shows emissions below the “proposed standards”.

Gio Anello, manager of waste planning and technical services for Durham Region, says the last four stack test at the DYEC have shown emissions at about one per cent of the current allowed standard.

“We contribute less than one per cent. We don’t really put out a lot of sulphur dioxide into the air,” Anello says.

However, Siopis forecasts regular “exceedances will occur” the ambient air stations once new levels are regulated.

Speaking with The Oshawa Express, Anello says he believes there could be three or four more exceedances a year under the new standards.

Each time there is an ambient air quality exceedance, Durham Region is required to report it to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and the public.

Consulting firm Stantec Inc. then performs an investigation on behalf of the region into the cause.

What’s troubling to regional staff, Anello explains, that with increased exceedances will come increased investigations, and at the end of the day, increased costs.

“We know that we’re not a major contributor but we have to report it to the ministry,” he says.

Therefore, Anello believes the region is often responsible to investigate exceedances that ultimately they are not the cause of.

This stance is not unknown to the MOECC.

“The ministry has considered this, they acknowledge it is really their responsibility to undertake these investigations,” Anello says.

There have been two separate air quality exceedances in the area of the DYEC over the past year that were deemed not to have resulted from DYEC operations:

– A spike in containments in June 2017 was attributed to nearby construction on the future Highway 418

– On Nov. 27, 2017, air quality measurements showed an exceedance of 93 per cent over provincial standards. This exceedance was later attributed to heavy truck traffic and idling on Rundle Road

Both of exceedances were deemed to have posed negligible human health risks by Stantec Inc., which investigated the incidents.

In response to Siopis’ report, Wendy Bracken, a frequent critic of DYEC, claims “outdated standards” were used in the health-risk and environmental assessments of the facility, adding the region should be “held accountable” for the development of the incinerator and the site selection.

“It was poor assessment of risk,” Bracken stated.

Conclusions on the cause of past exceedances by Stantec Inc. “don’t cut it,” she adds.

“It’s the same consultants who told you it was okay to use these standards,” Bracken said.  “It’s coming back to haunt you now.”

She called on the region to take a closer look at health risk data in the area of DYEC, such as lung-related and stillborn deaths.