Teck plume creates smoke of dissent

The smoke stacks looming above Trail’s downtown have been garnering more attention lately than they should.

The smoke stacks looming above Trail’s downtown have been garnering more attention lately than they should.

A more visible plume coming from the main zinc stack at Teck Trail Operations has drawn “dozens” of calls of concern to City Hall and to its council members as people have been anxious about the irritating column of exhaust for the last three weeks.

As a result, council requested a meeting with Teck’s general manager, Greg Belland, and other company officials last Friday at City Hall.

Belland said the company was dealing with an ongoing issue within the acid and absorption plants that has resulted in more visible plume, Mayor Dieter Bogs noted about the meeting.

“Metal levels in the stack have not increased and we remain within our permit levels for both metals and particulate,” said Catherine Adair, Teck community engagement coordinator.

The plume was primarily ammonium bisulphate, an irritant but not a health risk, said councillor Rick Goergetti.

But it was discouraging the city was not notified right away when the situation developed, said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.

“Even though it was still within their permit level, the plume was enough that it was an irritant to a lot of people,” he said. “And when you have an irritant like that, even though it may be within a permit level from a solid perspective, or from a material perspective, when it bothers people like that it is unacceptable.”

The city asked Teck for a better communication protocol and they agreed, said councillor Kevin Jolly.

Belland assured council they would be putting together a team that would deal with communication protocols. The company will also be preparing a public notice on the matter, said Jolly.

Bogs said council was told the problem resided primarily in the largest acid plant, where the absorption tower was not working properly, overloading the clean up pump.

As well, the converter which changes sulfur dioxide gas was not operating well and “some of the gases are getting through,” Bogs said in a report to council Monday night.

Teck has had a number of smaller shut downs already as a result, and are planning a full day shut down to deal with the issue. The new $125-million acid plant—still over one year away from completion—will feature a double conversion which means they will be much more efficient, over 99 per cent instead of the current 98 per cent.

“It will make quite a significant difference in the atmosphere in Trail,” said Bogs.

Currently, Teck personnel have completed maintenance work that has improved the plume, Adair confirmed.

“We are continuing to work on the issue to further improve zinc stack performance,” she said.