Richmond probes impacts of potential coal port

Aerial view of Fraser Surrey Docks. -
Aerial view of Fraser Surrey Docks.
— image credit:

Richmond City Hall is now probing the potential local impact of a coal export terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks.

Coun. Harold Steves made the motion Monday—unanimously backed by council—ordering an analysis from city staff on contaminants that could make their way here.

“Port Metro Vancouver is attempting to convert the Fraser River and its adjacent farmland to heavy industrial use,” said Steves recently. “Shipping coal, jet fuel and oil is incompatible with a salmon spawning river. Coal dust containing lead, mercury and arsenic is incompatible with marshland habitat or the production of food on adjacent farmland. Dust in the air is incompatible with human health.”

The proposed Fraser Surrey Docks terminal would take coal by rail and then send it by barge through the South Arm of the Fraser River, past Steveston, to Texada Island. Up to eight million tonnes of coal a year could be barged there and stockpiled for transfer to ocean-going ships.

Port Metro Vancouver has not yet ruled on whether the new terminal can be built, but it has been opposed by Metro Vancouver and several local cities. Chief medical health officers from Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health have also called the current environmental review inadequate, citing various flaws and insufficient consideration of potential health impacts from coal dust.

A decision on the project is expected soon after Dec. 17, when the environmental impact assessment is due.

Tomorrow (Thursday), Steves will host a town hall meeting to raise awareness of the proposal. It starts at 7 p.m. at Steveston Community Centre (4111 Moncton St.), and includes presentations from Communities and Coal activist Stephanie Smith and retired fisheries biologist Otto Langer.

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