HAZCO's Nov. 17, 2005 Open House and Public Discussion Forum
Ideas on what to do to attract more people that wish to live in Lamont County
The proposed sulphur storage facility envisioned to
be constructed between Bruderheim
and Lamont is a bad idea.
When the next municipal elections come around, keep in
mind the enormous troubles and expenses
County residents were being put through by being forced, on account of
Lamont County Council's wrong action, to spend many thousands of dollars and
thousands of hours of their valuable time in opposing HAZCO's proposal.
Things never had to go as far as they did. What the
Lamont County Council should have done from the start is to show HAZCO the
door (as the Thorhild County Council did when HAZCO wanted to locate their
sulphur facility there) instead of opening the door to HAZCO by initially
voting in favour of HAZCO's proposal.
Whatever mistakes Lamont County Council ever made, to open
the door to HAZCO was one of the worst.
Remember, lest we forget!
The Open House
When I visited HAZCO's open house in the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2005, a sprinkling of other visitors, about six or seven, were conversing with the experts whom HAZCO had hired to promote its cause at that open house and later in the evening at HAZCO's public discussion forum, although it appeared that some of the announced and advertised big public-relations hired guns did not
make an appearance for the showdown.
A number of graphical displays (apparently some were the same displays that are on exhibit in the HAZCO information office) were being shown.
As I walked by and examined a diagram depicting the estimated density of sulphur particulate deposits (a.k.a. sulphur dust) Dr. Leahey, an atmospheric consultant engaged by HAZCO, offered to answer any questions I might have. I commented on the diagram and asked about the process used to produce it.
Dr. Leahey said that the diagram was the product of computer modelling based on hourly measurements of meteorological conditions in the area surrounding the proposed HAZCO site.
I remarked that the results of such modelling are not very trustworthy, mainly on account of the poor, controversial and conflicting results obtained from running simulations using global circulation models for the predictions of global warming trends and even more so with respect to the poor results obtained in weather forecast that almost invariably
fail to predict the weather with a satisfactory degree of accuracy more than a day in advance. With respect to what went into the model constructed by Dr. Leahey, to accept it as being an accurate prediction would stretch the imagination of anyone living in this area and familiar with the fact that there are no meteorological monitoring stations in the immediate surroundings of the proposed HAZCO site. I remarked that in view of that it would be hard to accept that the shortcomings of the GIGO (Garbage-in, Garbage-out) characteristic of such
a computer model had been overcome in Dr. Leahey's simulation of the atmospheric conditions pertaining to the proposed HAZCO site.
Dr. Leahey said that he is a member of Friends of Science and that he agrees that the global warming hype is a hoax. He explained that the following information was used as the input for his calculations regarding the proposed HAZCO sulphur site in the County of Lamont:
- Wind and temperature measurements from the meteorological measuring station in Lamont;
- Cloud cover data from the Edmonton International Airport, and
- Data for tropospheric layering and conditions measured at Stony Plain.
A variation of the chart that was the object of our discussion is shown on page 109 (see Fig. 1 on that page) of the PDF file containing HAZCO's application to Alberta Environment.
In the course of our conversation we discussed that Dr. Leahey's model only produced estimates of what the sulphur dust deposits in the area surrounding the plant might be, but that the model provided absolutely no information on what amounts of SO2 and H2S would be injected into the surrounding atmosphere. Dr. Leahey explained that any H2S that should be liberated from the liquid sulphur to be delivered to the site would be flared off. He then called Robb Mann (a HAZCO employee) over to have him provide more details pertaining to that.
Robb Mann explained that there would be no flaring of H2S and that any liberated H2S would be vented into the atmosphere . That lead to a short exchange between him and Dr. Leahey, during which Dr Leahey exclaimed that HAZCO had never told him that the H2S would be released into the ambient air.
Robb Mann insisted that I was, like many other people, under the misperception that the liberated H2S (which would be present at the point of release in potentially deadly or at least harmful quantities) poses any danger. He insisted that the H2S would be present at a density of no more than one part per million of the ambient air and be diluted to a concentration outside of HAZCO's site boundaries that would not be detectable by smell, let alone be a threat to anyone. He did not offer any references to studies that confirm that claim. Nevertheless, information relating to that issue is available from many other sources, none of whom HAZCO ever cited. For example:
The Human Health Effects of a Toxic Pollutant
“H2S poisons the brain, and the poisoning is irreversible”
Kaye Kilburn, Ph.D., University of Southern California School of Medicine
NC Scientific Advisory Board reports that “symptoms such as headache, nausea and eye and throat irritation” are found in communities with ambient levels “as low as 7 to 10 parts per billion” associated with periodic fluctuations at higher levels.
Note that 10 parts per billion of H2S in air is an exposure level that is a hundred times lower than the one part per million that HAZCO's Robert Mann boasts of. Moreover, levels as low as four parts per billion, 250 times lower than the level of one part per million mentioned by Robert Mann, are detectable by smell. The smell of H2S is a characteristic that all who live in the vicinity of a gas processing facilities are familiar with. The characteristic rotten-egg smell of H2S is noticeable for many kilometers downwind from Shell's Shantz sulphur facility, the very facility constantly referred to by HAZCO as the example that the proposed HAZCO facility in the County of Lamont will follow. Interestingly, none of the employees, neither operators nor staff, at Shell's Shantz sulphur facility live within smelling distance of that facility; absolutely none live as close to the Shantz facility as thousands of the Lamont County residents would.
The driving regulatory assumption has been that if an exposure to H2S is not fatal, there are few, if any, lasting health effects. But that assumption is medically outdated. Four public health scientists-including Kaye Kilburn, Ph.D., University of Southern California School of Medicine, and Marvin Legator, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston-participated on an H2S panel at the American Public Health Association's annual meetings November 11, 1997, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to present and discuss groundbreaking research demonstrating the extraordinarily toxic nature of H2S at the chronic, low levels to which communities across the nation are routinely exposed. These public health findings support the thesis that exposure to hydrogen sulfide, even in extremely low concentrations, can cause lasting damage to the nervous system.
Hydrogen Sulfide and its Health Effects - from oil to hog farms
By NEIL J. CARMAN, PH.D.
Technical Advisor to the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention
Austin, Texas 78702-5431
The Public Discussion Forum
A large number of people (estimated to be in the range of 300 to 350) attended HAZCO's public discussion forum. It appeared that more than nine out of ten of them wore "NO to HAZCO Sulphur" lapel buttons.
The view graphs that were shown in connection with the presentations by the panel members were illegible. None of them showed anything recognizable, with only HAZCO's name at the bottom of the slides being decipherable. I have seen literally thousands of view-graph presentations during my professional life, and I produced and made hundreds of presentations. Never have I seen a view graph presentation as bad and as useless as that made by HAZCO at its public discussion forum.
A good number of people in the audience asked questions that were then answered by the panelists. The vast majority of the answers provided by HAZCO's panelists were no different from any of those we have become familiar with. Most of the issues covered in the questions were those addressed also in these web pages (the very pages you are reading right now). It is therefore not necessary to repeat here the concerns expressed, except for some notable comments from the audience and from HAZCO.
One question concerned the ownership of the sulphur to be stored and processed by HAZCO. Don Friesen, HAZCO's CEO, stated that ownership of the sulphur will not be by HAZCO but will remain with the producers of the sulphur (mainly Shell as of now).
Regarding the concerns about the smell of H2S and some of the dangers posed by sulphur processing, Don Friesen stated — not surprisingly — that smells will pose absolutely no problem and that the smells associated with other facilities is not caused by sulphur but by 'mercaptans'. He should have reserved a comment like that for people of whom none ever had any experiences with gas and oil processing. If HAZCO ever had any credibility with Lamont County residents, it lost much of it through that comment by Don Friesen.
Although it is hard to top a comment like that, Don Friesen managed to do it. At one point he commented that he couldn't understand why Lamont County residents were so opposed to HAZCO's proposal. He said, "There are
sulphur blocks all over the province. There are some two counties down the road, and none of the people there have concerns." Upon that the audience broke out into a spontaneous round of applause, laud laughter and remarks like, "Well, go there!" and "Why do you want to locate here?" (See
information on problems with sulphur storage)
Regarding the production of sulphuric acid, Dr. Clark identified that the
generation of sulphuric acid resulting from bacteria feeding on sulphur prills in contact with water (rain and melting snow) can be prevented through the application of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which will simply kill the
thiobacilli that feed and thrive on elemental sulphur and thereby produce sulphuric acid and other sulphur compounds, such as H2S.
Dr. Clark stressed that SLS is harmless because it is a common ingredient in shampoo, but neither he nor any other of the panelists or HAZCO's officials presented any information at all on the dangers posed by SLS and the warning messages on shampoo bottles containing it. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is toxic, may cause mutagenic effects (mutations) upon chronic exposure and poses a serious health risk, requiring immediate medical attention if inhaled or ingested. (See Material Safety Data Sheet for Sodium Lauryl Sulphate in the Pesticides Database of the Pesticide Action Network North America).
Although some material safety data sheets identify that SLS is toxic to aquatic life,
that it can cause skin rashes and itches, no data on the impact of SLS on water quality
appear to available in North America. The
concerning the quality of drinking water limit SLS levels to 200 µg per
liter. Without a doubt, once HAZCO were to use the chemical in the large quantities required at the proposed site, an excellent opportunity would present itself for the collection of data pertaining to the extent of the impact SLS will have on the environment. Why should we, the residents of the County of Lamont, become the guinea pigs for that experiment? Still, if SLS is introduced into the environment at the proposed HAZCO sulphur site, what will HAZCO do to neutralize or remove it before it harms anyone?
There was only one voice in the audience that expressed disagreement with the general anti-sulphur bias. It was that of a lady who addressed the vast majority of the audience that clearly opposed the HAZCO proposal for the County of Lamont. In a very emotional voice she questioned what "you people" want, said that "our towns are dying", that the taxes raised from agriculture were insufficient to cover expenditures and expressed that if the County of Lamont wishes to avoid extinction or assimilation we have no choice but to invite and accept industries such as HAZCO. She obviously forgot the major concern of the united opposition, namely that per acre of land used the other industries that located here prior to or without the "help" of the Industrial Heartland Development Association pay far in excess of ten time the amount of taxes that the County can hope to gain from the HAZCO proposal. Not only that, but they do it with far less risk of damage and costs to infrastructure, quality of life and quality of the environment.
Incongruously, the woman complained about the dangers posed by trains loaded with dangerous goods that move through the County and cited an incident when a wheel on a railroad car had seized, with the train moving for many miles down the track before the problem had been detected, and that the few dangers posed by a little sulphur plant are small in comparison. However, she provided no explanation on how dangers posed by rail traffic will become alleviated when sulphur unit trains two kilometres long (the length of a train of 126 cars) and longer add to the dangers posed by the rail traffic moving through our County.
The others were more cautious about the dangers posed by HAZCO to the environment, people and property. One man (a prominent chemical engineer who had worked for many years at one of the established chemical plants in the Fort Saskatchewan area) asked, after commenting on the exceedingly poor quality of the slides that had been presented, what guaranties HAZCO can possibly offer that any of its verbal and written assurances about its minimal or non-existent impact on the environment would still hold when, as a result of the trend in the corporate world towards more frequent mergers, ownership of HAZCO were to change hands two, three or four years down the road. None of the panelists responded on that point.
Another man asked why, if exposure of elemental sulphur to air and water posed such a great risk of
bacterial contamination and sulphuric acid production, why HAZCO would not simply cover the sulphur pile. It was intriguing that Dr. Clark then explained that that would be a viable solution to the problem and is exactly what had been done with a sulphur pile in South Africa, although there was no intention to do that with the HAZCO proposal for the County of Lamont.
Speaking with and listening to members of the audience after the public discussion forum, it seemed that the general sentiment was that HAZCO made a bad impression, allayed none of the justified fears and subjected the participants to a poorly executed flim-flam job that is not likely to fool anyone.
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Posted November 20, 2005
2006 10 15 (reformated)