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Rail traffic to jump at Joffre

Rail traffic at the Nova Chemicals complex in Joffre will be boosted by about 30 per cent as part of a proposed polyethylene plant expansion.

A rail yard with room for 450 cars will be added on the west side of the existing yards, which will also be expanded to make room for almost 100 more cars.

The additional rail traffic created means Nova will have to drop a self-imposed 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in its rail yards. The curfew was put in place to keep noise down at night.

Rick Van Hemmen, Nova’s Joffre site leader, said the company does not know yet how much extra activity will be created and how much former curfew time will be needed to move rail cars around.

The company said it is well aware that keeping noise down is important to neighbours and the company will do as much as it can to limit the impact, especially during usual sleeping hours.

One of the key considerations for choosing the rail yard site was that it is further from neighbouring residents.

More details on traffic flows and movements in the new yards will come as plans proceed.

The Nova complex sees about 10,500 hopper cars and 7,500 tank cars a year. About 4,400 to 5,400 more cars will be added after the expansion.

Van Hemmen was before Lacombe County council on Thursday to discuss rezoning 100 acres of agricultural land to heavy industrial to make way for the rail yards.

The $30-million project is part of a $750-million to $900-million expansion to a polyethylene plant on site.

The new polyethylene reactor will produce about 950 million to 1.1 billion pounds of low-density polyethylene a year — boosting total plant production by about 40 per cent.

Nova’s board is expected to give the project the green light next month and construction would start in the spring for completion by the end of 2015.

Coun. Rod McDermand, who attended the meeting through teleconferencing, questioned how much of the 100 acres would be taken out of agricultural production when the rail yards are built.

Van Hemmen said about 20 acres are needed for the yards, but there will also be a little more land put aside to create a larger wetlands area.

However, if approved, all 100 acres would be zoned industrial and could one day be put to that use, he added.

Council gave first reading to the rezoning bylaw and set a public hearing for March 14.



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