The mayors of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, Ontario, gathered on May 18 to hear comments on a proposed amendment requested by Colacem Canada, reported The Review. The company is seeking approval to build a cement plant on Country Road 17 outside L’Orignal.

The amendment was approved by the United Counties council in January, but because a public meeting held in October wasn’t attended by enough members of the council, another meeting and vote must be held.

Action Champlain’s lawyer Ronald Caza argued any benefit from the cement plant might disappear in the near future, as more jobs are replaced by machines. “When you replace the people who work with machines, you lose the only advantage you have from having this project in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell,” he said.

Action Champlain is a non-profit organization founded by residents of the Township of Champlain, which opposes Colacem’s project. The group also had a planner, George McKibbon, argue against the official plan amendment requested by Colacem. The planning report prepared by United Counties staff and studies provided by Colacem provide “insufficient information” for the amendment, McKibbon said. He explained while an EOHU study did not establish a link between living near a cement plant and a higher risk of cancer, studies “have not established that proximity does not have a causal relationship.”

McKibbon argued while Colacem’s study show air quality and dust levels will be within ministry standards, air contaminants being released from Colacem’s quarry and from vehicles on County Road 17 are not included in the study. “There’s a reasonable probability that those will exceed the ministry standards,” said McKibbon. “The air and dust analysis do not include the cumulative impacts associated with the air that people who live in the residences around the Colacem cement plant will breath.”

McKibbon also raised concerns about the noise and vibrations that would be caused by the plant, as well as the visual impact on the surrounding area. He called the proposed project “profoundly sizable” and said that would have an effect on the surrounding area. “It’s very flat area. It can be seen from a substantial distance, and no attempt has been made to quantify that impact or address it,” he said.

Colacem Canada has said it will hold meetings for residents “on theme-based topics that matter to the community,” and will also create a “Community Liason Committee with a mandate to work with the community and promote dialogue.”

Plant manager Marc Bataille said it is difficult to make a decision without completely understanding the issues, and Colacem sees the meetings and the liaison committee as ways of improving communications with the public.

The company said the benefits of the project will include an initial investment of $225 million and 300 long-term jobs. It also says its plant would be state-of-the-art, and use 40 percent less fuel than some of its competitors. “After its construction, the cement plant will have one of the lowest environmental impact of all operating cement plants in North America,” said an open letter from the company.

The proposed plant will have the capacity to produce 3,000 metric tons of clinker per day, with an estimated annual production of 1.16 million metric tons of cement.

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