SHORTTS LAKE – Fumes and smoke originating from the Lafarge cement plant on Thursday lasted for hours and was so strong that people had to take refuge indoors, one area resident says.
“The fumes here was brutal … it gagged everybody out,” an obviously agitated Stanley Campbell told the Truro Daily News Friday afternoon.
“We had to put up with it for five-and-a-half hours,” he said, of the air pollution that he said began about mid afternoon and continued until approximately 8 p.m.
“I’m really talking about selling and getting out of here. As I said to my wife I don’t want to live around this,” Campbell said.
Plant manager Scarth MacDonnell said the fumes were created during a start-up of the cement kiln following a regularly scheduled maintenance shut down.
“I don’t have all the information. It sounds like they were blending fuels and there must have been a downdraft and there must have been something that the residents could smell,” he said, Friday.
“We switched fuel blends and from what I understand everything was cleared up,” he said. “It was just a combination of oils. They switched from one to another and it sounds like everything cleared up.”
MacDonnell also said the company plans to conduct a “full investigation” of the incident to ensure it does not happen again.
“Because we can’t be impacting our residents like that,” he said.
Campbell agreed that the residents should not have to be impacted in such a manner, but said that while what occurred on Thursday might have been the worst of such incidents, it is certainly not the first.
Over the past 12 months, Campbell said, Lafarge has had three such startups following scheduled shutdowns.
“Every time they shut down, every time they start up, it’s getting worse with them. They don’t care,” he said. “It was unbearable here yesterday,” he said, adding that any residents in proximity to the plant who were outside where driven inside and forced to shut their windows and doors to the fumes, a situation he said was especially concerning for families with young children.
“Lafarge is getting away with too much here. For them to do anymore startups, there should be somebody there from environment (department) to do quality control on what they are doing,” he said.
“Somebody’s got to regulate what is going on there,” Campbell said, adding it is another example of why the plant’s application to burn plastic products in its kiln should not be approved.
“They are just getting away with what they want to do,” he said. “My thing is, it was disgusting here.”
Nearby resident Lydia Sorflaten agreed.
“We as citizens of Shortts Lake deserve a full review of an intolerable situation that occurred here last evening following the start up of your kiln at Lafarge,” she said, in an email that was sent to LaFarge and forwarded to the Department of the Environment and the Truro Daily News.
“The fumes that flowed up the lake and into our homes should not have been inhaled … ,” Sorflaten wrote. “No one should have to tolerate what we had to tolerate last night.”
A spokesperson with the Department of Environment said an investigation is underway regarding the incident and “a full report has been required by the company on full details of the fuel,” along with mitigation plans to prevent further fumes from occurring.
“ An inspector responded and was informed that the cause was the plant burning used oil for fuel and the kiln was not hot enough, resulting in smoke,” DoE spokesperson Lori Errington said, in an emailed response.
“The plant has switched fuels and the smoke has stopped,” she said, adding the department will be following up with the company on the incident.