Press Release, June 2, 2014
Letters obtained by Communities and Coal, sent from the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union – Unifor, and the TBuck Suzuki Environmental Foundation to the BC Minister of Health Terry Lake, and CEO and President of Port Metro Vancouver, Robin Silvester, outline concerns over the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal to ship up to 8 million metric tonnes of US Thermal Coal through BC Communities and the potential ‘disastrous impacts’ it may have on the BC Salmon Fishing Industry.
Both letters address the issue of diesel and coal dust pollution on the health of communities along the proposed coal route and ask both Robin Silvester and BC Minister of Health Terry Lake, “ensure that a full Health Impact Assessment is completed and that its recommendations are heeded and acted upon”.
The letters go further to state that with the burning of Thermal Coal in Asian markets the “warming effects from climate change are likely to have disastrous impacts on salmon migration and would promote stress and disease adding greatly to in-river fish mortality”. This is significant considering that a 2012 report from BC Statistics stated that the GDP from BC’s commercial fishing was $103.2 million and on the rise. Further, that same report indicated that sport fishing contributed $325.7 million to the province’s GDP, employing over 8,400 people, up from 8,000 from the previous year. When asked, David Lane, Environmental Director for the Union, and Executive Director for the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, stated that the Port had only recently responded to his April 24th letter, but that the Province has yet to reply.
During the Port’s comment period regarding Fraser Surrey Docks’ Environmental Assessment, thousands sent concerns over the proposal, including a letter from Tyee Bridge from the Fraser Riverkeeper. In his letter, he estimates that 400,000 – 800,000 kilograms of coal per year “will escape into the air and aquatic ecosystems”. This is important due to the fact that coal contains “significant quantities or arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are recognized as dangerous carcinogens”. He goes further to say that these substances can “bioaccumulate in the food chain” and have significant effects on aquatic life.
Recently in the United States, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington concluded that the Clean Water Act case would be allowed to proceed against BNSF Railway Company for coal contamination of U.S. waterways. “Depending on how this plays out, this case could have significant implications here in BC”, says Paula Williams, co-founder of the grassroots group Communities and Coal. “If they can clearly show how coal, and the toxic metals it contains, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury, are polluting and poisoning their water, their fish, and ultimately, the people, it will be a game changer for our situation here in Canada”.