Westshore Terminals is planning on spending millions this year to upgrade its coal dust suppression capabilities.
Vice-president and general manager Denis Horgan told Delta council Monday night the coal port is planning on spending $7 million on new equipment.
Horgan outlined the system for suppressing coal dust as the material makes its way from the mine to Delta to be shipped around the world.
The presentation was in response to a letter from chief administrative officer George Harvie voicing concerns about coal dust in the community.
Horgan said once the coal is loaded into a rail car at the mine, it is leveled and sprayed with a latex-water spray. The solution is a binder than forms a crust that holds the coal in place for the trip.
A few years ago, after CN Rail received complaints about coal dust coming off rail cars, the company built a second spray station near Kamloops that trains must path through enroute to the coast.
"Since that time, they've had very few if any complaints. They tell me that the... complaints are in the single digits for coal dust," Horgan said.
Once at the terminal, 30 per cent of the coal goes straight from train to vessel while the other 70 per cent is unloaded and stockpiled.
When coal arrives at Westshore it's unloaded in a rotary dumper. There's a building around the machine that's sole purpose is to contain the dust.
"There's no other reason for the building," he said.
Currently the facility has several different pieces of equipment used to help keep coal dust down. There are 77 ground-level rain guns that use recycled water to wet the stockpiled coal and 35 high mast sprays that spray clean water onto the piles.
Horgan said the company also uses water trucks to clean roads and sprays magnesium chloride a couple of times a year, which is also used on logging roads to keep dust down.
Horgan said there were a two dust incidents last year - one in April after a sudden and unexpected gust of wind and a second in October that was the result of high winds and dry weather.
"It pinpointed to us the weaknesses in our system and they need addressing," he said.
To improve the system, Horgan said Westshore is replacing the existing rain guns with 96 new models. He said the newer rain guns will have more controls, can be automated and will be more responsive to weather conditions.
He said the company is also planning to add six water spray towers and is looking at a fog cannon, which is mounted high in the air and sends out a fine mist to combat fine particulate matter.
"So that's what we plan to do between now and the beginning of summer to hopefully increase our dust suppression abilities," Horgan said.
Coun. Ian Paton asked why rail cars aren't required to be covered.
Horgan said rail companies have told him the most effective way to prevent coal dust is spraying.
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