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Blecher addresses Port Hope council

By Eileen Argyris


Two members of council took a step Tuesday toward resolving an issue that has provoked emotional responses in the community: the proposal by Entech-REM to locate a gasification plant in Wesleyville.

Councillors Jeff Lees and Greg Burns were the mover and seconder respectively for a notice of motion that will come before the Committee of the Whole on June 10.

The motion to move to a decision on the proposal was read aloud after an enthusiastically received presentation by Dr. Stan Blecher, who addressed the packed council chamber on the “spin” offered by the company to allay concerns about their proposed operation.

Blecher compared REM’s claims to those made by Big Tobacco which, for more than a century, continued to insist that cigarettes were safe and even beneficial to health, despite information from the medical community that they were highly addictive and caused cancer, heart disease and other threats to health.

Blecher, who is a medical geneticist and professor emeritus in molecular biology, told council that the company has admitted that the REM plant would produce 16 tonnes per day of “bottom ash,” which would go to landfill.

“This would be by far the most toxic waste ever deposited in our local landfill sites,” Blecher warned.

He said the ash from an incinerator had been used for paving in Newcastle, England, where dioxin, mercury, cadmium and lead were discovered in levels he described as “stratospheric.”

“Does Port Hope need yet another clean-up of contaminated earth?” he asked to a loud chorus of “no” from the audience.

“There are no government regulations” regarding nanoparticles, Blecher said. Even REM’s own Environmental Screening Report admits the incinerator would emit arsenic, manganese, chromium oxides, lead, mercury, cadmium, vanadium, cobalt, nitrogen oxides, hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide, furans, dioxins, nickel, fluorides, copper and antimony, he added, saying the company had denied that any of these substances causes cancer.

“The company’s statements about cancer risk are totally false,” he said.

Blecher’s remarks were extensive and can be found on the Port Hope Residents 4 Managing Waste Responsibly website.

The notice of motion put forward by Lees and Burns calls for a representative of Entech-REM to be invited to the June 10 meeting to answer council’s questions, that the necessary public meeting be held as soon as practicable after the presentation, that the municipal planner be given two weeks after the public meeting to prepare and present a report to council. Following that, the motion calls for a council vote on Entech-REM’s applications for a zoning bylaw and official plan amendment, both necessary in order for the company to proceed to develop the proposed plant.

Mayor Linda Thompson said after the meeting that “Dr. Blecher provided a great deal of information related to health and science.”

Noting that Blecher said he had forwarded the same information to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment which, as she pointed out “is the regulatory authority,” she said she looked forward to the ministry’s response with regard to particulate from the proposed REM plant and the negative health effects described by Blecher.

This issue, she said, is now in the hands of the ministry and she added, “I look forward to their response to these issues.”


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