An approval has been upheld for a contentious Leslieville-area frac sand facility, leaving a nearby landowner fuming at local politicians’ handling of the issue.
“It’s terrible,” Ken Forster said of the Clearwater County subdivision and development appeal board’s decision to uphold a development permit for the proposed fracking sand trans-loading centre that will be built about 400 metres from his home of 30 years.
About a dozen neighbours joined forces and hired a lawyer to oppose Edmonton-based Di-Corp’s proposal to build a $15-million facility on a 33-acre site about three km west of Leslieville.
Those opposed argued the project would create unsafe traffic backlogs onto local roads, prove a noise and dust nuisance, and stick an eyesore in the middle of farmland with views of distant mountains.
“We’re not against the company being in the county. That’s not what we’re against,” said Forster. “We’re against where they’re putting it.”
Residents suggested better locations where the plant would not affect other property owners but council paid no heed, he said.
“They’re working against us all the time,” he said. “They are not listening to us.”
Forster said council approved the rezoning of the site to industrial and the later development permit despite widespread opposition.
He’s at a loss what steps residents can take to fight the project.
“The problem is we can’t afford a million dollars (in legal bills). We are just ordinary people. We don’t know what to do.
“We are just really choked.”
In its decision, the appeal board approved the project based on a list of conditions, including that noise from the site and its railyard not exceed 75 decibels at the nearest home.
A berm and tree plantings will also be required, dust control measures put in place and lighting directed downward on the site.
A major concern of residents was the potential for truck traffic to back up from Alhambra Road to Hwy 598 at a rail crossing if a train was present. The board accepted evidence that there is enough room for vehicles before the tracks and low enough traffic volumes that a safety issue will not arise.
Di-Corp project manager Hubert St. Jean does not anticipate any problems meeting development conditions, which were based on the background work and public input the company gathered before making its development application.
The site includes six 27-metre silos for fracking sand and a 53-metre bucket elevator.
Sand is brought to the plant from the U.S. by rail car for customers in Alberta. The rail yard has room for 120 cars and “soft coupling” techniques are to be used to keep noise down.
St. Jean notes the appeal board did review concerns of traffic backing up onto Hwy 598 and determined that was addressed.
“They did take into consideration everything that we presented and the issues and they felt there wasn’t an issue,” he said.
The company had proposed entering into a development agreement requiring the company to upgrade area roads if a traffic problem emerged.
“The SDAB didn’t feel it was necessary to have that development agreement,” he said. “They set some ground rules of what they would like us to live up to and that’s going to be our intent.”
Di-Corp will continue to work with neighbours to address any concerns, he said.
Site work is expected to begin soon and the plant is expected to be completed by March.