More than two years into the battle, a group of Elmira residents has no intention of letting up on its opposition to a proposed biogas plant. On Monday the Bio-Fuel Citizens Committee (BFCC) held a rally at Bolender Park in Elmira, where close to 50 people attended in the rain to hear an update on the fight against the Woolwich Bio-En project.
The bio-energy facility won provincial approval in March despite reservations from the township and some residents. The operation will use an anaerobic digester to convert organic material into methane that, in turn, fuels a generator to create electricity.
“Things are still happening so don’t give up hope and don’t give up the fight,” Dr. Dan Holt, a member of the committee, told the rally attendees. “A lot of things are still being looked at and we are working on some things: it is not a done deal yet. The contract has been awarded for this location but there are still some negotiations being done. We have had a strong, unified voice.”
Residents in town are concerned about the smells, traffic and health risks associated with the plant. The province has already green lit the plant for the north end of town and the committee will be entering mediation over the plant.
The location of the plant is not up for discussion at mediation, rather clarity over rules and process.
“We won’t be asking for changes to the location or the number of trucks in mediation but we are going to try to make sure the process is very carefully monitored by a citizens’ committee and that we have a clear understanding of where all the material is coming from,” said BFCC member Michael Purves-Smith.
“We just wanted to make it clear that there are still some real concerns in the town and we wanted to inform those who came that we are still working on making sure this plant will be carefully monitored.”
If the committee sees no results from the mediation process they will be considering appealing the decision, which is scheduled for Aug. 13-14, an expensive proposition, added Purves-Smith.
“We want to be sure that all the rules set up by the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) will be monitored and followed up in real detail. We want proper enforcement of rules should there be any problems, such as odor coming from the operation of the plant and we want to make sure there are backups in place as well.”
Purves-Smith advised everyone in attendance to contact the Ministry of Environment (MOE) if they smell anything coming from the plant and make a complaint.
“One thing that we are going to go after in mediation is a clear understanding of what happens if there is a failure of compliance,” he explained.
The $12-million facility would generate 2.8 megawatts of renewable electricity which is enough to power 2,200 homes.
The township is still in talks with MOE hoping to find a new location for the plant.