CATCH News – December 13, 2010
ArcelorMittal Dofasco got an unwelcome Christmas gift on Friday – complaints from more than 2000 Hamilton residents about company air pollution. The delivery marks the latest attempt of nearby residents to engage the company in discussion about the impacts of its operations on surrounding neighbourhoods. They are concerned about everything from noise and odour impacts to fears about the impact of cancer-causing benzene and benzo(a)pyrene releases from the company’s coke ovens.
The complaints came in the form of postcards and hand-written letters accumulated by the Good Neighbour Campaign (GNC)
of Environment Hamilton. The four large clear bags tied with ribbons and Christmas bells were delivered by residents from neighbourhoods near the plant dressed as Santa Claus, Mrs Claus and four ‘elves’.
to attend the afternoon delivery to the company’s Hamilton headquarters on Burlington Street, but none showed up. The residents asked to briefly speak with company president Jurgen Schlacher, but were told he was “in a meeting” and couldn’t be disturbed – the latest in a series of refusals since the GNC first started asking in mid-May.
“Since this date the company has continually refused to meet with residents both on and off their property,” explained the GNC’s media release
. “The most recent failed meeting attempt took place on December 2 when the company chose to not attend a press-free community and company mixer – a collaborative event between the GNC and residents intended to spark conversation on mutual community issues.”
The company had agreed to an August meeting with the GNC, but cancelled
it after an individual resident sought the right to appeal thecomprehensive certificate
granted to ArcelorMittal Dofasco to combine over 100 separate emissions approvals into a single document.That granting of appeal rights has since been rejected in a decision by the provincial Environmental Review Tribunal.
The comprehensive certificate allows the company to re-start a mothballed blast furnace as well as consolidate other air emissions certificates.
The GNC has also conducted a “white flag” campaign
over the summer which engaged over 400 residents in a comparison of the effects of visual air pollutants on small white pieces of cloth hung outside their homes – mostly in neighbourhoods near the plant but with control flags in Ancaster and Dundas. The campaign drew national media attention and GNC argues the results point to ongoing problems in north Hamilton.
“The flags placed in the North End and along the Beach Strip have a noticeably higher degree of discolouration than the flags placed in our comparison areas which included Dundas and Ancaster,” states a report
released last month. “In particular, the flags on Grenfell Street, which is on the back doorstep of ArcelorMittal-Dofasco, and on Cope Street, which is located north of Barton and east of Centre Mall, appeared to be the most impacted with almost all the flags containing a high degree of yellowy-brown discolouration.”
The group says microscopic examination confirmed the visual analysis, and has provided the flags to the Ministry of the Environment for further examination. The GNC emphasizes
that their campaign is “not to shut the company down but to open lines of communication” between residents and the company.
“What the company needs to realize is that communication is a two way street,” Stiel says
. “We continue to encourage ArcelorMittal Dofasco to come forward and discuss the issues that are of a concern to both parties.”
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