Several issues that had been brought up at the two previous public meetings at Baldonnel Elementary School were addressed, including what PVOSB General Manager Ian Coote says he gets asked the most: why now?
"We're very much aware that members of the joint venture, when the plant was being proposed, did make suggestions that there was no plans to utilize MDI, and that was what the thought at the time was," he explains. "Today, the trend in the industry is to move more towards MDI-based resins, more away from the phenol formaldehyde resins."
He continues that Louisina Pacific, soon to be the sole owners of the mill, wants to bring the best practices to Fort St. John, and one of those is the use of MDI, while protecting the health and safety of its employees and the community. Mark Hutnik, Account Manager of Polyurethanes for Huntsman, LP's MDI supplier, backed Coote up by maintaining that if a company isn't utilizing the chemical safely, they don't sell it to them.
"The bottom line is we really feel at the end of the day that Peace Valley OSB can use MDI safely, like so many other mills in North America and around the world that use it today," he says. "There's no reason that this mill can't use this safely and we'll be here to help them and work with them hand in hand to make sure that happens."
He adds that MDI is transported safely every day around the world, and is used in 84 per cent of OSB mills in North America.
As for potential health issues in the community, Bill Karoly, Industrial Hygiene Consultant for Huntsman, explains that while MDI can cause occupational asthma, it's only if someone is exposed over a long period of time above the exposure limits. He adds that it has not been proved to be linked to any cancers.
"The data that has been looked at for MDI time and time again, the organizations that looked at the data state unequivocally that MDI is not a cancer causing agent," he argues. "I don't know of any organization has ever classified MDI as a carcinogen."
Employees' pulmonary lung function is tested annually, along with regular spot testing. PVOSB Environmental Manager Lindsay Sahaydak added that their application was reviewed by Northern Health, and their response was that they "see no significant impact on community health".
While part of the opposition to the application stems from concerns about possible health issues, the other part stems from a distrust of the company. PRRD Area B Director Karen Goodings, among other speakers, brought up issues that neighbours have had in the past with spills from the fire suppression pond and the log yard retention pond, and their dissatisfaction with their resolution.
"This whole thing is a little bit about trying to gain some respect for, and trust in what you do as a plant," she explains. "While we're here tonight to discuss the MDI, I think all the rest of this also comes into play because it depends on how you deal with these issues, how much trust there is from a resident's point of view."
While PVOSB maintains that there are significant benefits to the community by switching resins, including creating less waste, and less formaldehyde emissions, it's not clear whether anyone opposed to it's minds were changed after last night's meeting. The application is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment, who say they will not have a decision before June 30, and questions and comments from the public will be accepted up until then.