Environment Hamilton has learned that, as far back as 2012, the Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) Hamilton office received community complaints about visible air pollution emissions from the Sunrise Metals scrap yard. In the spring of this year, we started to see the problems too, and filed a formal complaint with the MOE. At the same time that we filed our complaint, we asked staff at the MOE’s Hamilton District Office whether the company had the necessary air permit to be using a metal cutting torch. We waited for over a month, but never received a reply from the District Office, despite sending a follow-up request.
But we got the answer to our question when we saw a proposal posted on the provincial Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) on-line registry (www.ebr.gov.on.ca). The proposal explained that Sunrise was applying for a provincial air permit so that it could use metal cutting torches at its site. The posting also indicated that the public would have until July 15th to comment on the application. The EBR posting confirmed for us that the company was using metal cutting torches –and subsequently generating severe visible air pollution emissions – without an air permit in place.
So we arranged - as is anyone’s right to do when a proposal is on the registry - to review the air permit application file at MOE’s Hamilton office. In that file, we found the company’s application document which included a copy of an MOE order issued to Sunrise in March of this year. The order recognized that the company was required to secure an air permit to use cutting torches, and acknowledged that the company had been cutting without a permit – leaving open the potential for an ‘adverse environmental impact’ which would be in contravention of the provincial Environmental Protection Act. Incredibly enough, the order did not require the company to stop cutting until a permit had been secured!
Fast forward to Tuesday, June 18th. At around 8:15 pm, I was cycling home after an evening meeting and decided to take my northerly route from downtown past the industrial core. When I got to Brant Street, along the stretch between Wentworth Street and Sherman Avenue, I wondered whether there was a fire somewhere in the neighbourhood. The air along Brant looked hazy and smoky and there was a strange smell in the air. When I got to Sherman and started to head north toward Burlington Street, I knew what the problem was! There were horrible, rust coloured emissions rising up from the Sunrise Metals yard. The company was obviously cutting metal scrap full out with their cutting torches and putting absolutely no effort into controlling the emissions. Clearly, the MOE approach of allowing the company to cut prior to securing a permit was not working. I documented the situation with a series of photos and reported what I saw to the MOE’s Hamilton District Office the next day. Thankfully, the MOE has since ordered Sunrise to cease all metal cutting in their yard until they secure a permit. But we ended up suffering the impact of cutting that was happening when there is a strong argument to be made that it should not have been allowed.
Now we all have an opportunity to provide input on Sunrise Metal’s air permit application. Environment Hamilton will be preparing a detailed submission and we’re encouraging community members to do the same. If you’re interested in submitting comments, you can do so by visiting the provincial Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca . To access the Sunrise Metals proposal, search for EBR post number 011-9270 or search via the facility name – Sunrise Metals. You can provide your comments to the MOE on-line. Here are some suggestions for issues you might consider raising in your comments:
-Sunrise must be required to adequately control the metal cutting emission generated by its cutting torches
-The ideal solution is for the MOE to require the company to cut large metal pieces indoors in a facility with proper pollution control. This is the standard request Environment Hamilton has been making on every scrap yard’s application for an air permit.
-MOE should not be permitting these yards to continue to cut while they wait for their air permits to be approved.
-MOE should be requiring all scrap yards in the province that are using cutting torches to cut large metal pieces, to apply for air permits.
If you are planning to prepare comments but would some additional guidance, feel free to contact me at the Environment Hamilton office at (905) 549-0900.