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Expert witness questions Colacem cement plant noise report

  photo Gregg Chamberlain
photo Gregg Chamberlain
An expert witness for opponents of a cement plant project near L’Orginal questions whether it is possible to reduce or eliminate noise pollution from the proposed facility.

“There are a substantial number of (sound) sources that would require mitigation,” said J. Peter VanDelden, during his testimony Friday, November 20, at the end of the second week of a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) appeal hearing on Case PL170756, concerning Colacem Canada Ltd.’s proposed cement plant project near L’Orignal.

VanDelden, who has a degree from the University of Waterloo, is one of the expert witnesses for Action Champlain, the community group opposed to the cement plant project. He noted that there would be “a substantial amount” of truck traffic in and out of the plant site once it was in operation and that nearby homeowners would suffer from an almost-constant loud beeping of backup warning signals as each truck maneuvered about to either pick up or drop off loads.

Inside the facility, VanDelden noted some “discrepancies” in the decibel-level figures on interior noise stated in the Golder & Associates consultant report on the proposed cement plant. He observed that given the amount of active ventilation equipment needed to clear the inside air of dust particles during the cement-making process the actual amount of noise “should be much louder” than the report claimed.

VanDelden told the LPAT tribunal that, based on his own experience studying and reviewing similar industrial setups, he questioned whether or not any sound baffling system would be able to deal with all the noise sources at the facility. He also noted a potential problem of ice hampering any sound-baffling setup during winter operations at the plant.

“I have yet to see one (silencer system) function well during winter,” said VanDelden, “and continue to function well.”

VanDelden also expressed doubt that the Ministry of Environment (MoE) would be able to do proper policing of any industrial noise problems at the plant if it was built. The MoE would respond to specific complaints, he stated, but how soon it would response was uncertain.

“The ministry’s capacity to police these things is very, very thin,” he said. “In my experience, the Ministry of Environment is too thin and stretched out to check every facility under its jurisdiction.”

The three-week main hearing portion of the LPAT review of the Colacem cement plant case ended November 25. The hearing resumes December 10, and additional scheduled dates include December 11, 16 and 18.