‘We want people to know we screwed up on handling petcoke and we are going to fix it,’ says the owner of Picton Terminals after being ordered by the Ministry of Environment to clean up his neighbour’s property.
On Saturday, Jack Vanderholst and his wife Ann Taylor returned to their summer home on White Chapel Road to celebrate Thanksgiving to find it covered in Petroleum coke. Petcoke is a non-toxic material used in the manufacturing of cement. It isn’t considered hazardous when sitting down however it can be if breathed in. Research suggests with the presence of carcinogens, petcoke could be harmful if it makes its way into the food chain.
Vanderholst said they immediately took photos of their black soot covered floors, window sills and pool. They emailed Picton Terminals owner Ben Doornekamp, contacted the MOE and Prince Edward County’s Bylaw office.
MOE spokesman Gary Wheeler confirmed staff determined the petcoke dust came from the nearby Picton Terminals during windy conditions.
“There was dust everywhere as well as the corn field surrounding us,” explained Vanderholst. “Our concern is, what is Petroleum coke? From the research we’ve done online, depending on where you go it says it is hazardous and others says it isn’t hazardous. Our other concern is what is going to be happening in the future and what other types of materials are they going to be storing in the future?”
“We are on full alert to clean things up,” Doornekamp told Quinte News.
He said the company was given instructions on how to handle the petcoke. “We were instructed to soak the piles in short piles twice a day to keep the moisture content high,” he explained. “It wasn’t being soaked enough and the wind blew the petcoke all over.”
He said after the visit from the MOE on Monday they soaked the pile again and then changed operations on Tuesday. They will be wetting the petcoke sand in the bulk storage and not transporting it when conditions are windy. Tarps have been brought in to cover the petcoke. There will be a site assessment of Vanderholst’s property Thursday and a cleaning company will be coming in to clean on October 17.
“We followed a protocol and it isn’t working,” Doornekamp admitted. “We screwed up and we are owning it. We are being held to a higher standard which is awesome. We are working to clean it up.”
Wheeler said the ministry will continue to monitor the situation as necessary.
Mayor Robert Quaiff confirmed with Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works Robert McAuley that bylaw staff have been given instructions to investigate if this incident goes against zoning regulations. The findings of the County’s investigation are not available at this time.
The terminal had been zoned as a port from 1955 to 2006 and has been shipping salt since 1993.
Doornekamp said somehow the zoning was changed to a quarry while the company was still operating as a port. He added they are going through the required process to change that as the company embarks on a multi-million dollar expansion that could see nearly 100 ships per season.