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New West neighbours fed up with mill’s noise, rats and ‘sawdust storms’

Residents want quicker action on issues
mill two cedar island
Cedar Island Remanufacturing is a business in the Queensborough area at 320 Ewen Ave., which is close to several residential properties.

A group of residents are looking for the City of New Westminster to take quicker action about noise, smells, rats and “sawdust storms” they say are caused by a nearby sawmill.

Cedar Island Remanufacturing is a business in the Queensborough area at 320 Ewen Ave., which is close to several residential properties. The residents have filed multiple complaints with the city stretching back a year, but some recently paid a visit to council.

“On March 1, 2021 two speakers from Salter Street presented council with concerns with respect to the operation of Cedar Island Remanufacturing, particularly as they relate to the operation’s adjacency to residential buildings,” reads a City of New Westminster staff report from April 26. “The concerns included noise, air pollution, rodent infestation, decaying plant, lack of response from property management to resident concerns, workplace safety, and questions about the city’s decision to place residential units immediately adjacent to industrial zoned properties.”

That list about sums up the concerns of Port Royal resident Vesna Stoja, who told the Record the situation is intolerable.

“The business is in almost continuous violation of the noise bylaw and it is responsible for daily instances of wood chip and sawdust storms cloud over our properties, severely affecting the air quality,” Stoja said. “At this point we feel disheartened and helpless, as the mill often operates on Saturdays as well, the days when kids play outside and neighbours tend to their gardens. This proves not only unenjoyable but also extremely dangerous, as the operating mill is actively pumping their sawdust into the air and straight into ours and our children’s lungs.”

The city report presented to council says staff looked into the noise complaints and confirmed there were multiple violations.

“Between August 2020 and January 2021, six noise readings were taken at various times

during the day when the mill was in operation,” says the report. “Five of the six readings indicate the mill is operating above the permitted limits as set out in the Noise Bylaw.”

As for the air quality issues, the city report says Metro Vancouver responds to issues such as odour, smoke, dust and other air emissions.

“The MV Environmental Regulation and Enforcement Officer is investigating the concerns regarding air quality and has advised Cedar Island of the requirement to obtain authorization to discharge air contaminants and the need to apply for a permit,” says the report. “To comply with Metro Vancouver air quality regulations, Cedar Island has engaged a consultant /contractor to re-direct the cyclone exhaust stack towards the interior of their property rather than facing the residences. Cedar Island is working on obtaining their regional permit.”

As for concerns about rats and other rodents, the report said staff have recommended to the Cedar Island representative to hire a “qualified professional to assess the infestation, and to provide and implement a comprehensive treatment plan if necessary.”

On Jan. 19, 2021, the city issued an order telling Cedar Island to bring the property into compliance regarding noise levels during day and night periods.

“Cedar Island was also reminded of their responsibility in meeting Metro Vancouver’s air quality requirements and the expectation that all businesses operating in the city comply with all federal, provincial and municipal laws, bylaws, regulations, and rules applicable to that type or class of business.”

The deadline for compliance was set for March 21, 2021, the report said, adding that fines for a first noise offence are $200 and $400 for repeat offences.

The report says the city is using a “progressive enforcement action” approach and not fines had been issued as of April 26.

Stoja said it’s good there is corrective action being taken, but it’s of little comfort for residents dealing with these issues for a year.

“We have reported the issue to the city over a year ago and city has investigated and requested that changes be made, Stoja said. “The city has finally received a corrective action plan from the business in April; however nothing has changed for the residents. It’s been over a year since we first voiced our concerns, and we see no actual change or action being undertaken by the sawmill to bring their operations up to required standards.”