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  Champlain Township against cement company zoning change, but UCPR votes for

By Candice Vetter - AgriNews Staff Writer

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  • L'ORIGNAL -- On Tues., Jan. 24, Champlain Township Council voted against the zoning change required for the proposed Colacem Canada cement plant which has been the subject of backlash since early last year, when the project, first proposed in 2011, was revived by Colacem. Council also supported a resolution listing concerns about "visual pollution, air pollution, noise pollution, incompatibility of land use, and potential property value loss."

    Then the following morning, Wed., Jan. 25, the Councillors of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell voted in favour of a master plan amendment in favour of the project. Mayors who lived nearest the proposed plant, Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois, Champlain Township Mayor Gary Barton, and East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby, voted against it. Mayors from farther away, Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjardins, Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux, and The Nation Mayor Francois St-Amour, voted for it.

    The company crushes stone and sells it, and is seeking permission to put a cement plant on about 56 hectares (138 acres) beside its existing quarry operation located 4.5km west of the village of L'Orignal, in a primarily farming area.

    Other than the quarry, surrounding lands are zoned rural or agricultural. A change to heavy industrial zoning would be required for the plant, which opponents say is a heavy industry which can have a large negative impact on the environment.

    Many nearby residents, both farmers and non-farmers, have concerns ranging from hundreds of additional heavy trucks daily, a 125m (410 ft.) chimney towering over the region, 52 large industrial buildings which would appear out-of-scale in the rural landscape, and particulates in the air, water, and on crops and gardens.

    Cement is made by milling crushed stone to a fine powder, which is then preheated, sent to a kiln and heated to about 1,500 C, (requiring a 2,000 C flame) to form clinker of hydraulic calcium silicates, to a which small amount of gypsum is added, then the product is cooled and ground.

    The Colacem Canada website says the proposed plant will have the capacity to produce 3,000 tonnes of clinker per day, with an estimated annual production of 1.16-million tonnes of cement. Colacem says it will use "state of the art technology, including a hybrid electrostatic precipitator and bag house to provide the best overall efficiency and reliability regarding dust emissions, energy generation from excess heat, and zero wastewater discharges to the environment."

    Last July, Colacem submitted studies to support its request for zoning changes to Champlain Township, a request for modification to the Official Plan to UCPR, and two permit requests to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The documents can be seen at www.prescott-russell.on.ca/en/planning/official-plan/ongoing-amendment, www.ca.colacem.com/newproject/indexorignal.html, and at the Environmental Registry of the MOECC -- file numbers 012-8124 (air) and 012-8119 (sewage).

    Colacem is a multi-national corporation based in Italy, with plants in Italy, Albania, Tunisia, the Dominican Republic and Canada, which also concerns residents. The group Action Champlain, which has a petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/126/179/472/, states, "That an international business would place its profits above our health is a given, but that our neighbouring municipalities have shown this same disregard for our well-being is beyond appalling." It then suggests citizens concerned about this heavy industrial use of farmland write to UCPR at 59 Court Street, P.O.Box 304, L'Orignal, Ontario  K0B 1K0 or alatreille@prescott-russell.on.ca.

    Another contributing factor to residents' concerns is the lawsuit against Colacem alleging that Colacem's cement plant along the Ottawa River has caused nuisance to its neighbours in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and Harrington, Que., in the form of significant dust emissions, noise, odours, and excessive truck traffic to and from the plant. The Siskind Law Firm website says, "The action seeks damages, for nuisance and for the losses that Petitioner and other Members of the Group have suffered as a result of the operations of Colacem, included but are not limited to property damage and diminution of property values. On Jan. 29, 2015, Justice Donald Bisson of the Quebec Superior Court, authorized the action as a class proceeding, and appointed Mrs. Lydia Kennedy as representative plaintiff. The case is currently in the discovery phase. Further updates will be provided as the case progresses."

    Some residents, however, support the plant, and the jobs they hope it will provide. Colacem says it will invest $225-million, and create 125 direct jobs and 175 potential spin-off jobs.

    Prospects now are uncertain, as it appears permission from both tiers of local government is required. Colacem has the option to dispute Champlain Township's decision with the Ontario Municipal Board.

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