Is there an ideal location for a cement plant? If there is, members of the Vankleek Hill and District Nature Society (VHDNS) in eastern Ontario say that location is not near the village of L’Orignal.
Colacem Canada, the Canadian arm of an Italian cement company, wants to construct a 52-building facility just west of the picturesque community on the Ottawa River. Naturalists and residents fear the environmental degradation that could result if the plant is built.
“The increases in pollution, noise and traffic associated with this development could seriously jeopardize local wildlife and habitats,” says VHDNS president David Stringer. Project opponents argue that the plant will be an immense source of carbon dioxide emissions, which will contribute to global climate change effects. The plant could produce nearly one megatonne of carbon dioxide each year, which would make it one of the top 12 carbon polluters in the province.
Last fall, VHDNS joined Nature Canada, Nature Quebec and Ontario Nature in urging Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna to call for a federal review of the proposed facility. In April, McKenna rejected the request, saying that provincial laws already provide sufficient oversight to ensure Colacem adequately manages any water and air contamination. VHDNS and its allies were disappointed with the response but will continue urging all levels of government to thoroughly review the project and its potential environmental impact before making any decisions regarding its construction.
VHDNS formed in 1978 with the goal of educating youth about nature through hands-on activities and presentations. That commitment is reflected in the group’s motto, “Conservation through Education.” Ontario Nature’s Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership is one venue VHDNS uses to engage young people in nature protection and, since 2014, the group has sponsored half a dozen local high school students to attend the summit.