Read Waterkeeper's entire comment.
1.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Lafarge Canada is seeking Certificates of Approval for air emissions and water taking related to its plan to produce concrete for the Wolfe Island Wind Project. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper respectfully submits that the permit to take water should not be granted at this time because the application is alarmingly vague. In particular, the applicant is not able to say how much water is needed or how freshwater will be conserved and has not demonstrated how and if contaminated process water will be managed.
No reasonable person could approve a permit to take water at this time in light of the uncertainties and the ill-defined nature of Lafarge's request.
The Wolfe Island Wind Project is an 86-turbine wind development proposed for Wolfe Island, Ontario. Wolfe Island is located across from Kingston at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Here, the lake meets the St. Lawrence River. Lafarge Canada intends to construct a ready-mix concrete batching plant on the Island to serve the Wolfe Island Wind Project. The concrete plant will be located within the Greenwood Quarry, at 885 Hwy 96.
Lafarge Canada applied for two Certificates of Approval for the ready-mix concrete batching plant (â€œthe Plantâ€). Lafarge is requesting permission to release contaminants such as dust, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide into the air. The public comment period for this application was extended to July 12, 2008, because the supporting documents for the application were not made available to the public at the time that notice was posted to the Environmental Registry.
Lafarge is also asking for a permit to take water from Lake Ontario. Water will be drawn in through a pipe to be constructed in the bay at Mill Point. The concrete plant will use somewhere between 164,000 litres each day and 576,000 litres per day. Water will be mixed with the product to make the concrete and not discharged back into the environment. Water may also be required for dust control.
3.1 The actual scale of the water taking is still unknown, resulting in environmental and regulatory uncertainties
On its face, the permit to take water application is a request to take freshwater from Lake Ontario in order to produce concrete for the wind project. This water taking is a consumptive use, and no water will be returned to the lake or the watershed. The amount of water Lafarge requires for this use is 164,000 litres/day. The issues to be considered on this matter are described in section 3.3.
On the last page of its application, however, Lafarge indicates that it may also require freshwater from Lake Ontario for its dust control strategy. This strategy may be required as part of the Certificate of Approval for air emissions, which has not yet been issued. Lafarge asks for an additional 236,000 litres/day, bringing the total application request to 400,000 litres/day.
This second request raises a number of additional issues. First, dust control is likely to result in some level of contamination. Concerns regarding wastewater management are described in section 3.2. Second, every withdrawal of this scale should include water conservation measures. A water taking of 400,000 litres/day (105,668 gallons/day) exceeds the threshold for significant water takings, which is 100,000 gallons/day. The Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement contains a decision-making standard for management of withdrawals and consumptive uses. Waterkeeper respectfully submits that Lafarge's current application fails to meet this standard in the following ways:
â€¢ No evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the withdrawal will not result in significant individual or cumulative adverse impacts to the quantity or quality of Mill Point Bay and Lake Ontario â€¢ No evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the withdrawal will incorporate water conservation measures â€¢ No evidence has been provided to confirm that the water taking is reasonable and that it minimizes the waste of water.
Third, Lafarge has not yet submitted a dust control strategy to the Ministry of the Environment, so the proposal deals only with abstract generalities. The current written strategy is less than one page long and merely states that Lafarge â€œwill prepare and implement a detailed Best management Practices Plan for the control of fugitive dust emissions... This Plan will be submitted to the Director and District Manager for their acceptance within the timeframe specified in the approval.â€ There is a definitive link between Lafarge's dust control program and the amount of water the applicant will require, so the two should be considered together. The dust control plan should consider the need to conserve freshwater as much as possible. The permit to take water should reflect the actual water withdrawal needs of the project. In this way, it is premature to approve the permit to take water while the air emissions application is still incomplete and the dust control plan has not been submitted.
Fourth, the Environmental Registry notice lists the proposed water taking as 576,000 litres/day (152,163 gallons/day). This exceeds Lafarge Canada's request by 176,000 litres/day without any justification.
3.2 The applicant is unable to say if it will require a wastewater management system
The water withdrawal for concrete manufacturing is a consumptive use. Once integrated into the product, the water is not returned to its watershed. The water withdrawal for dust control is not a consumptive use; as such, some plan must be devised to treat the water and return it to the watershed. Without a clear and approved dust control plan, it is not known:
â€¢ how much water will be discharged, â€¢ where it will be discharged, â€¢ what the quality of the discharged water may be, â€¢ what the temperature of the discharged water may be, or â€¢ what other terms and conditions may be required to protect the environment
It is important to note that there is no sewage collection and treatment system on Wolfe Island. If Lafarge is going to return water to the environment, it will need to construct a wastewater discharge system of its own. The wastewater management system may require a Certificate of Approval under Section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act. This approval must also undergo comment through the EBR process and should be connected to the air and permit to take water applications.
3.3 The Certificate of Approval must include terms and conditions to address water level fluctuations, monitoring requirements, better reporting requirements, mitigation of environmental impacts, etc.
The water withdrawal has the potential to impact water levels and fish habitat in the Mill Point Bay, even at its most conservative estimate of 164,000 litres/day. The Bay is known to provide important fish habitat in one of the most precious wild regions on Lake Ontario.
The Ministry of the Environment should include terms and conditions to protect Wolfe Island's natural environment. These binding terms and conditions should include:
â€¢ a limit to the amount of water that can be taken that reflects the actual need â€¢ thresholds for restrictions on water takings during times of low water levels â€¢ mitigation measures to protect the aquatic environment during construction of the water intake pipe â€¢ the requirement for best available technology to prevent fish impingement, entrainment, or similar impacts during water intake â€¢ restrictions on water takings during important fish migration or spawning times â€¢ monitoring requirements to ensure impacts on water levels, fish, and fish habitat are identified as early as possible and mitigated immediately â€¢ more frequent reporting requirements to ensure transparency, compliance, and prompt action (i.e., weekly at first, monthly thereafter)
Without such terms and conditions, the permit to take water does not meet the standards of the Ministry of the Environment's Statement of Environmental Values. It will not reflect an ecosystem approach. It will not guarantee that environmental impacts are minimized. It will not incorporate the precautionary principle. And notably, it will not conserve freshwater resources.
3. 4 The Plant may be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
There is currently a federal environmental assessment of the Wolfe Island Wind Project underway. The water taking may have an impact on fish habitat, and it may require authorization under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Either of these regulatory approvals may trigger the federal environmental assessment process. Furthermore, since the Lafarge proposal is ancillary to wind turbine construction, is could be included in the assessment process. Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport may impose additional terms and conditions on the project.
This affects the Ministry of the Environment's decision-making in two ways. First, the Ministry of the Environment should recognize the potential for federal jurisdiction in this matter and ensure that provincial approvals are contingent on federal approvals if they are required.
Second, the Ministry of the Environment should ensure that the permit to take water does not allow Lafarge to begin taking water immediately; rather, the commencement date for the permit should be contingent on the completion of the federal environmental assessment process. This should be the case regardless of whether or not Lafarge requires additional federal authorizations. (The current application is a request for a one-year taking commencing June 1, 2008.)
3. 5 The application requires additional amendments and information
Part 7 requires a letter granting consent from the owner of the site where the water taking will occur. This letter is not in the application file
Part 7 states that there are no wells within 500 m of the site where the taking will occur. Waterkeeper has reason to believe that this may not be accurate.
Part 7 states that it is â€œunknownâ€ if there is municipal water available within 500 m of the site. There is no municipal water supply on Wolfe Island.
Part 7 states that the estimated start date for the water taking is June 1, 2008. This should be amended as described in Section 3.4 above.
Appendix E, Schedule 1 contains a checklist of water conservation measures. Lafarge is proposing to implement only one conservation measure, universal metering. It is not clear how this measure relates to this specific undertaking or how it reflects the water conservation issues described in Section 3.1 above.
Appendix E, Schedule 1 states that Lafarge will report to the Ministry of the Environment annually. Given that this water taking is for a one-year period, this is unacceptable. Annual reporting will not identify environmental impacts or trigger mitigation. Annual reporting reduces accountability and renders meaningless the Certificate of Approval and any terms and conditions.
Appendix E indicates that the water taking will require an authorization from the local municipality. The authorization letter referred to in that paragraph is not in the application file.
Appendix E states that,â€Water taken will not be returned to the environment aside from being a constituent of the concrete being produced.â€ In the event that water is taken for a dust control plan, this statement may not be true.
In light of the above commentary, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits the following recommendations:
1. The permit to take water application be denied; and 2. The permit to take water application only be resubmitted and posted for public comment when
(a) the applicant is able to state how much water is required, (b) the applicant is able to describe its wastewater management system in the event that it intends to use lake water for dust control, (c) the applicant includes consideration of water level fluctuations, (d) the applicant includes a monitoring and mitigation proposal for protecting fish and fish habitat, (e) the connection to the federal environmental assessment process has been clarified and respected, and (f) the matters relating to the application form itself have been addressed; and,
3. Any future amended or revised permit to take water application also be subject to the EBR comment process.