Pollution blame laid at governments’ door

Dear sir,

Dear sir,

The latest Hotline, Nov/Dec. 2010, the Alcan Union’s paper promoted in one article that Alcan’s employees should not oppose the Northern Gateway project because they themselves work for a polluting industry.

All industrial, indeed all human activities, produce pollution but there are some distinct differences.

Some industries produce large quantities of jobs and real wealth, wealth you can raise a family on, save and help to provide a pension.

Best of all they are sustainable and continually improved to reduce pollution.

Other industries merely export our resources along with jobs, even consume tax revenue produced by wealth creation.

As for Alcan, in the early days they surely polluted, but they had some smart, dedicated people, management with a conscience and a motivated workforce.

They progressively eliminated a very great amount of pollution.

Dry scrubbers recycled fluoride – eventually 96 per cent – which was no longer discharged along with hydro carbons into the fjord.

Actually, the old wet scrubbers were dismantled – almost no hydro carbons into the water.

Next came dry anodes which greatly reduced roof emissions. One could rarely see discernible amounts of visible fume from the buildings.

Then came point breaker feeders which reduced the frequency in which pots come on light and therefore further reducing emissions.

This project was cancelled. Why?

The new carbon plant received a water recycling facility, further reducing hydro carbon materials being discharged.

Nothing but progress to this point.

But then things regressed. Promotions into management positions of people who seemed to know little about the process but were interested in writing irrelevant reports and merely promoting themselves.

Local management succumbing to corporate pressure to place profit above anything else and hiding behind safety concerns.

The coke calciner output was increased from 10.5 tons – it was designed for to 14 tons plus. Emissions increased along with other problems.

Pot operations were no longer monitored closely enough. Holes in the bottom of anodes raised iron content among other problems.

Then came the clincher. Raising the pot voltage to increase cell production. This raised the pot temperature resulting in many pots being left “open”. The scrubbers would no longer operate efficiently and pot exhaust fumes were vented to a great deal through the roofs again.

The result was a doubling of roof emissions.

However, the tools to pressure industries, when needed, were removed as senior government handed over controls of resources to corporations: power, oil, gas, raw logs, water, even transportation.

So the real blame for the disasters, loss of revenues for social services, unemployment rests with governments.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway project produces in the long term almost nothing, except a certainty of environmental disaster and the loss of thousands of jobs both by exporting crude rather than refining it here – approximately 5,000 jobs and losses in the environmentally-based businesses.

Then there is the tremendous cost to Canadian taxpayers because of the tax breaks from the federal government for accelerated write-offs until the investments are written off.

And let us not forget the clean-up cost when disaster strikes.

Dieter Wagner.

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