The Tseshaht First Nation strongly opposes the startup of Cantimber Biotech without their consent.
Last month, Cantimber’s director of project development, Michael Liu said that the wood-based activated carbon manufacturer must complete a couple more recommendations from a list of 21 provided to them from the third-party consulting group, Golder and Associates, before starting operations.
According to a June 7 press release from the Tseshaht First Nation, Tseshaht oppose any activity, operation and/or issuance of any license and/or permit by the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) until all issues identified by Tseshaht have been fully addressed.
“This includes but is not limited to, Cantimber Biotech and the erroneous consideration by PAPA that the implementation of Golder and Associates studies and recommendations commissioned by the PAPA are adequate to address Tseshaht interests,” states the release.
Other than the lack of information being shared with the Tseshaht First Nation, their biggest concern is to do with wastewater being discharged from the mill.
“Since the beginning we’ve been bringing up the issue of what is the exact liquid discharging from the Cantimber operation…there’s not adequate information being put forward.” said Tseshaht chief councillor Cynthia Dick.
The Golder study states that cooling water from the carbonization process was periodically discharging from the cooling tank and that the temperature of the water discharge was estimated to be 50-70 °C. The water was discharged to a surface water drain.
“We had our fisheries manager Andy Olsen working with us and he made the entire working group aware that if water is discharged at that temperature it could kill the fish. We need to know exactly how much of it is going into the Inlet,” Dick said.
After hearing about community members experiencing adverse health impacts from Cantimber emissions, Tseshaht initiated an intergovernmental and agency working group to begin steps toward collaboration to better understand potential health, social environmental and cultural impacts of Cantimber operations.
“[The working group] is more used as a form of communication, so getting general updates on the Golder and Associates recommendations and the report,” Dick said. “I wouldn’t call it a partnership or a collaborative group, it’s more used as a form of updates.”
She said Tseshaht want to address and create a solution and hope to create an agreement with PAPA that sets out a shared decision making framework to allow all parties to make informed decisions.
“We need more engagement, we need to set up a process so we’re not caught in this situation every time a new process comes up,” Dick said.
Tseshaht are lobbying federally to have First Nation representatives on the PAPA board of directors.
PAPA president and CEO Zoran Knezevic said the port authority has consulted with the Tseshaht since the first day that they became interested in Cantimber operations.
“We have included them in all our conversations and provided all the information that Tseshaht would like to have,” Knezevic said.
Knezevic said the port remains transparent and inclusive with all stakeholders involved in Cantimber operations, especially First Nation groups.
“Especially Tseshaht, as they express strong interest in regards to this project,” he said “We have included them in all the dealings and instructions that we had in regards to Cantimber since they became interested in the project.”
Since Cantimber’s inception, Knezevic said PAPA has been working to ensure the safety and protection of community members and the environment by working with Canadian environmental agencies, the BC Ministry of Environment, Vancouver Island Health Authority, First Nations Health Authority, Alberni Air Quality Council, local government and First Nations groups.
In regards to the “potentially lethal wastewater effluent” being discharged into fresh water and aquatic marine life noted in the Tseshaht press release, Knezevic said it is a cooling water that is essentially tap water used to cool equipment inside Cantimber. He said this water does not get contaminated in any way.
“That wastewater is just essentially regular tap water heated up to 60 degrees Celsius…we have discussed it recently to ensure that the water is cooled to the temperature that is acceptable and in accordance with the environment,” Knezevic said.