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Essar to reduce cancer-linked emissions by 2020

Essar Steel Algoma says it aims to significantly cut down on emissions of benzene and benzo (a) pyrene in its steelmaking process.

Essar Steel Algoma says it aims to significantly cut down on emissions of benzene and benzo (a) pyrene in its steelmaking process.

Essar Steel Algoma representatives were on hand to explain the company’s plan to cut back on those harmful emissions (which have been found to cause cancer), as well as highlight other environmental improvements it has made over the years, at a community open house held Tuesday at the Northern Community Centre.

Fred Post, Essar Steel Algoma’s Manager of Environmental Control, told the steelmaker will be reducing emissions of benzene and benzo (a) pyrene in an incremental, phased-in approach between 2015 and 2020 in keeping with new limits from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE).

“There are new limits coming into force in 2016 for benzene and benzo (a) pyrene and in preparation for that we’re applying to the ministry for a site specific standard for those chemicals and there’s a plan we intend on taking to reduce our emissions to get there,” Post said.

“A site specific standard is an option in the provincial legislation that allows companies that are not in compliance with the limits set out in the legislation to develop an action plan to reduce emissions without shutting down the facility,” Post said.

“(In regards to) the new limit which comes into place in 2016, all integrated steel companies in Canada are fairly well above that limit, and all integrated steel manufacturers in Ontario will be required to comply with the same limits and same site specific standards.”

Investments and improvements have already been made by Essar Steel Algoma and the former Algoma Steel in regards to benzene and benzo (a) pyrene emissions, Post said.

“We’ve been addressing this since 1993 when Environment Canada introduced best practices for the industry to reduce benzene and benzo (a) pyrene, and it’s been a continuous improvement process since then and we plan on continuing with that.”

“We’re already within the first year’s implementation guidelines,” Post said.

A community liaison committee was established in 2008, whereby Essar Steel Algoma representatives could meet and communicate in regards to environmental issues with representatives of the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Public Health, the MOE, United Steelworkers Local 2251, environmentalists and the general public.

Jeff Arbus, a local educator, OPSEU representative and west end resident since 1982, was in attendance at Tuesday’s open house.

Arbus was a part of the original effort to work with the former Algoma Steel in setting up such a committee and pushed for community open houses to be held.

Arbus agrees Essar Steel Algoma has made environmental improvements over the years, but emphasized the need for residents who live near the steel plant to remain vigilant in regards to pollution.

“When I first moved to the west end in 1982 it would snow and in 24 hours the snow was black, if you had a new car you were looking at a paint job in a year, but now we don’t see that kind of heavy particulate (coming from the steel plant)…there is still that sulfur smell, but it’s less than what it used to be.”

“There are days when the sulfur smell is so powerful in the lower part of the west end you don’t go outside, you don’t let your children outside, but those days are few,” Arbus said.

“I’m going to tell my neighbours keep on with the phone calls to the company and the Ministry of the Environment and let them know we’re paying attention, and if they keep paying attention like they have been, that’s good.” 

“It (concern over pollution and its effects) is still there, and we need to make the phone calls to the company and to the ministry and keep the neighbourhood pressure on, but I also recognize the efforts the company has made have been in the right direction.”

“This (environmental improvement and pollution control by Essar Steel Algoma) is great, now let’s keep moving…I would say to them ‘thanks for what you’re doing, now keep doing more,’” Arbus said.

Essar Steel Algoma states it has already taken several, multi-million dollar steps over the years to reduce harmful emissions.

These include a $20-million installation of an oven pressure control system on its No. 9 coke battery (expected to achieve a 70-percent reduction in coke oven emissions at that battery).

$8 million has been spent on installation of emission-reducing equipment on the No. 7 coke battery, a whopping $78 million for replacement of coke oven walls on number eight and nine coke batteries, $2.6 million to capture emissions from the east and west Dekish facilities, $4 million on reduction of benzene emissions, and $2 million on a 600-metre long, 10-metre high berm along the south and westerly perimeters of the coal piles which deflects winds over the coal piles and cuts down on wind-blown dust.

In addition, $6.5 million has been spent on demolition and greening projects at the Essar Steel Algoma site (recovering 40,000 tons of scrap metal for recycling, to be used in the steelmaking process).

Another $3.85 million has gone towards noise reduction in the form of a new noise muffler to cut down on noise generated when pressure is let off from the steelmaking roof top.