Emotions run high at OSB resin change meeting

The resin is called MDI (methlyne diphenyl diiocyanate), which PVOSB says is used in many products like spray foam insulation, plastics for appliances, furniture and shoe glue, and is used at every other Louisiana Pacific OSB plant in North America.  However, several residents who spoke have done their own research on the chemical, and found it's been linked to health issues like asthma in the past.

The meeting was organized by Sandra Cushway, who only heard about the application earlier this week. Her main concern, which was echoed by many other speakers, was that when the mill was proposed in the early 2000s she felt the community was assured MDI would not be used.
 
"I was one of the ones that stood very passionately in the Cultural Centre 10 years ago and said, when we were told this would not be used, 'and what guarantee do we have 10 years from now, once the plant is in, you will not turn around and use MDI?'," she told the large crowd. "I was assured at that time that MDI would not be used."
 
She showed the audience a CBC documentary from the early 1990s called "Ill Winds", which follows health problems of some Dawson Creek residents after the OSB mill was built there, and the legal victory of residents near another Louisiana-Pacific mill in Colorado. Afterwards, several members of the audience came forward with their questions and concerns about both the health and environmental impacts of using MDI.
 
After reading out some of the research he's done, Richard Burley, who lives south of the plant, summed it up: "I guess we're all here about our kids, about our property values, and about our health and future." The residents of two neighbouring properties came forward with their bad experiences with the mill. They say they've had multiple spills onto their land, and were not impressed with the response of the company.
 
"Who's going to buy my property if this becomes a problem, if my kids get sick? Who's going to want my five acres?," asked Dixie Modde, who lives two places down from the mill. "We have a log house on five acres that has a beautiful shop and beautiful yard, but your kid's going to get sick. Who wants that? I don't."
 
Residents were also concerned to hear that there were originally five air monitoring stations in the mill, and only one is used today, as well as that LP gets to choose which days it gets its quarterly test.
 
PVOSB Environment Manager Lindsay Sahaydak and mill Manager Ian Coote took the opportunity to respond to some of the public's questions and concerns, but it appeared the crowd had mostly made up its mind. Sahaydak explained that what they saw in the CBC video was "all true", but that the company has changed in the past 20 years.
 
"Because of all those issues that happened, they've completely turned the company around," she argues. "We know we can use [MDI] safely. There are a lot of reports out there about health impacts that some people were bringing up about asthma; it is occupational asthma. It's been seen in people who have been overexposed in the workplace environment where there haven't been good enough safety controls in place, and we do have those controls in place."
 
Coote, who has worked in the industry and for LP for 17 years and at the PVOSB since August, says he wouldn't be making the application if he felt there was a health risk for him and his employees.
 
"Would I put my health at risk for LP? Absolutely not. I believe that I am not putting my health at risk, nor would I put the health and safety of any of my employees at risk, nor the community's which I live in," he maintains.
 
The main advantage of using MDI would be an increased production of the high quality board, as well as a lesser demand on the plant's pollution control equipment. However, Coote says any proven health risks are not worth those benefits.
 
"We've demonstrated that we're able to use this responsibly. We want to take the same configuration, the same competitiveness that the other plants in the OSB are doing and utilize it at Peace Valley OSB," he says. "But we certainly do not want to do it at the expense of the health and safety of our employees or our community."
 
PVOSB ran a one day trial back in July, during which only two of 84 sure spot hygiene tests exceeded WorkSafeBC standard, which will be remedied through engineering and additional protective equipment. An open invitation was extended to anyone wishing to tour the mill.
 
The public has until December 28 to comment on the PVOSB's application to the Ministry of Environment. It's estimated 170 signatures were gathered on a petition asking the mill to not use MDI. Area C Director Arthur Hadland also spoke against using the resin, suggesting PVOSB should withdraw their application. He was the only elected official present.

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About Erica Fisher 4010 Articles

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.