A spate of complaints from residents living near the Amaizeingly Green ethanol plant over the Civic Holiday weekend are being investigated.
"We take all community complaints very seriously and we review and investigate each one very carefully -not because we have to, but because we want to," said General Manager Martin Kazmir. "We want to get things right and the information we receive from the community is very helpful to us as we stabilize our plant's operations. The more detail we get in terms of describing noises and odours enables us to pinpoint where we have potential issues that we need to address."
Kazmir said the plant's Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) inspector spent the weekend following up on the complaints with residents.
The inspector reported an intermittent corn-drying odour on Aug. 2 and on the morning of Aug. 4.
"As part of the company's complaint response protocol, AGP also conducted a thorough assessment of all processes and equipment as the complaints began to come in and concluded that the plant was operating as normal, other than those periods where specific pieces of equipment were shut down for repairs," said Kazmir. "We could not confirm with absolute certainty that the corn-drying odour was a result of repairs that had to be made to the mill or the yeast dryer, and we continue to monitor our operations very closely in conjunction with the MOE. What we do know is that our facility did not appear to be the source of noise issues that were brought to our attention by some of our neighbours."
A news release from the company said the MOE noise limits for the area around the plant are 50 decibels during the day and 45 dB at night. The ambient background noise (from traffic on the highway, etc.) was measured at 55 dB.
"This same report also assessed the noise generated by the plant, which was found to be 48 dB during the day and 42 dB during the night," stated the release. "While yet to be confirmed by the MOE, these measurements indicate the sound emissions from the AGP facility are in compliance with the MOE noise limits.
Kazmir was reluctant to say the complaints had no validity. Instead, he said the company will continue to follow up on all complaints as part of a community relations and engagement strategy.
"We have been working closely with the MOE to ensure that we are doing our due diligence and following a systematic process throughout the start-up period to ensure that every process and piece of equipment we put in place is working the way it should," said Kazmir.
The plant received at least six complaints regarding noise and odour during the six weeks it was shut down, Kazmir confirmed.
Peter Case, the spokesperson for the East End Environmental Action Committee, disputed the information coming from the plant.
"Noise levels from the plant are variable and inconsistent," said Case. "They are frequently characterized by short, noisy bursts. Others are continuously loud hums or roars -- sometimes made louder because of wind direction. The MOE has frequently verified these noises."
"Excessive noise tends to be a problem for many residents during the night, forcing people to close windows," said Case. "Traffic flow is at a minimum during that time. Two provincial acts specify that industries that make it impossible for homeowners to enjoy the normal use of their properties are in contravention of the act."
MOE spokesperson Jason Lehouillier said the ministry did have an officer respond to complaints on Aug. 2. In addition, the Ministry has staff making odour and noise observations on a daily basis through the end of August.
Case continues to remain doubtful the plant is fixed.
"Residents in the east end know full well that odours have yet to be corrected. We can smell them," he said. "So, claims by Amaizeingly Green that it is shut down when it receives some complaints are regarded by most residents as simply diversions.
"They are miniscule moments in time compared to the overall experiences of residents," said Case. "The now-familiar odours being experienced by residents come from the direction of the ethanol plant. As far as we know, there's nothing to suggest other sources."