Pellet plant remains a hot topic in Chase

About 220 people show up at public hearing

CHASE - If the turnout at a second public hearing and number of written submissions are any indication, the controversy surrounding a wood-pellet plant on Aylmer Road has not subsided.

About 220 people attended the hearing at the Chase Community Hall on Tuesday night. Many blasted the proposed $40-million project on grounds of noise and dust pollution.

Mayor Ron Anderson and his four councillors listened to each person as he or she took the microphone. On the desk in front of Anderson was a binder full of more than 400 written submissions from residents.

Prior to the meeting, Anderson told The Daily News he expected 50 more submission would be added to the book by the end of the night.

There were 25 people at a village council meeting earlier in the day where a report containing feedback on the project from eight stakeholders - including Interior Health, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Ministry of Environment, Chase Fire and Rescue, the Kamloops-Thompson School District and the Adams Lake, Neskonlith and Little Shuswap Indian bands - was delivered. Councillors accepted the report without discussion.

Some citizens wanted to present on the pellet plant then, but were asked to speak that evening.

And they did. Jocelyn Nash accused mayor and council of putting the interest of proponent Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group ahead of residents.

She said council has "actively blocked the asking of questions and receiving of information" about what impact the project - particularly dust and noise - will have on seniors, children and people with asthma.

"Has council presented Pinnacle with the option of locating their heavy industry in the vicinity of Adams Lake sawmill, away from residential homes and still within benefit to our community?" she asked.

Ellen Blackburn has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lives half a kilometre from the Aylmer site. If the project proceeds, she'll have to move, and not just because of the dust.

"It's the diesel from the trucks," she said, adding more than 50 trucks a day would travel to and from the plant.

"I'm scared. I really am. I'm afraid for my life."

The Chase Concerned Citizens group played a video about Williams Lake residents commenting on a similar wood-pellet plant there. Noise and dust is a primary complaint.

Wally Churchill asked that council be given a chance. He turned to councillors for help when his home burned down, and he's confident they will make the right decision about rezoning the Aylmer property from residential to industrial.

"I'm sure that this council will listen to your concerns and do the best for you," he said.

As for feedback from stakeholders, the school district indicated it does not support or oppose the project while the Adams Lake band declined to comment.

The rest support the plant as long as environmental concerns are addressed and mitigated.

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