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Letter to Professor Paul Van Buynder, Chief Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority

Jun 11, 2013

June 7, 2013

Professor Paul Van Buynder
Chief Medical Health Officer
Fraser Health Authority
400 – 13450 102nd Avenue
Surrey BC, V3T 0H1
BY EMAIL: Paul.VanBuynder@fraserhealth.ca

Dear Professor Van Buynder,

I am writing in response to a May 27 letter from you to Port Metro Vancouver. After more than four decades of shipping coal safely and responsibly from the mine sites to the terminals, the Coal Alliance is unaware of any evidence suggesting negative health effects to people living in proximity to the railways or terminals. On the contrary, Metro Vancouver’s data suggests there have been ongoing improvements in air quality even as activity at port terminals has increased to the benefit of all British Columbians. Further, an assessment conducted by the South Fraser Health Region at Westshore Terminals in 1998 confirmed no health risk to residents as a result of the coal operations. Likewise, there is no evidence of health risks associated with coal for employees who have worked in the BC coal supply chain and in close proximity to coal for decades. This cannot be ignored or dismissed by personal opinions.

Our industry takes community concerns seriously. The terminals and rail carriers receive only a handful of complaints every year, and each and every one is fully investigated. Should an issue be identified, steps are taken to address the issue. For example, as a result of wind incident at Westshore Terminals in 2012, the company is now completing an $8.5 million major upgrade of its dust suppression system and a $4 million project to improve its waste water handling system.

We believe that statements such as the one you made at the recent town hall meeting in New Westminster on May 30 that “lots of people are going to be sucking in coal dust” simply has no basis in fact. It fails to take into account the industry’s long history of responsible operations and falsely portrays our industry and the thousands of British Columbians who are a part of it as negligent and irresponsible – something which is simply not true. The coal industry is heavily regulated by no fewer than eight government agencies. Transport Canada classifies coal as non-toxic, and the product is not considered a dangerous good.

Finally, the coal supply chain is a major part of B.C.’s economy, employing thousands of British Columbians and generating hundreds of millions in tax revenue which contributes to the health and wellness of communities across our province.

Sincerely,

Alan Fryer
Coal Alliance spokesperson

CC: Dr Perry Kendall, Provincial Health Officer
Dr Patty Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health
Dr Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health
Mr Roger Quan, MetroVancouver
Mayor Watts, City of Surrey
Mayor Baldwin, City of White Rock
Mayor Wright, City of New Westminster

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