Curtis Van Yzerloo was at work one day this month when the fumes became intolerable.
A nearby asphalt plant was belching out thick grey smoke and the wind was carrying it right to his building in a new industrial park off Westside Road a few hundred metres to the north.
“When that was pointed right at me, I couldn’t even see the end of my property,” he told me last Wednesday morning as we watched smoke rise from the plant. “There are thousands of hectares where they could have done this where it would not have affected the general population. Here they are, they set up within city limits and they just go for it.”
On this day, the wind was favourable and the smoke was being blown west, up the Jordan River valley. However, it could be seen while driving up Victoria Road towards the highway and the odour was faint, but noticeable at Van Yzerloo’s shop.
The temporary asphalt plant is being run by Okanagan Aggregates, which is paving the Trans-Canada Highway west of Revelstoke. It is set up in a Jordan gravel pit run by the Ministry of Transportation, located opposite the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club’s Boulder Mountain Parking lot.
Bob Bilowski, the spokesperson from Okanagan Aggregates said the Ministry of Transportation offered them that location for the plant as part of the paving contract with the ministry.
They began operations on May 29 and will be running until the end of June. Operating hours are 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
Van Yzerloo is building a manufacturing facility in the new Highmark Industrial Park to the north. When I called Selkirk Mountain Helicopters, which is located just south of Van Yzerloo’s shop, they said that while they noticed the odour, the asphalt plant wasn’t causing problems for them.
Theresa Lerose, the manager of legislative services for the City of Revelstoke, said she received complaints about the asphalt plant and contacted the province about it.
“I was satisfied they were following the city’s bylaws, even though they don’t need to if it’s the responsibility of a higher level of government,” she said.
The asphalt plant does appear to be set up legally. The province allows temporary asphalt plants to be set up in gravel pits on Crown Land. Their operation is regulated by the Ministry of Environment, which states they must be located 300 metres from any residences or businesses, and 500 metres from any schools or hospitals. It is also required to meet emission regulations.
“The plant has been tested and it meets all the requirement of the governing agencies,” said Bilowski.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said the plant in question was registered and that the ministry would be inspecting the plant on Monday, June 19, as the paper was going to press.
As for the city, the land is zoned RR60, which allows the extraction and processing of raw materials as long as the product is regulated by the Mines Act.
Yet, as people in Columbia Park can attest, when the wind blows in from the Jordan River valley, dust from the many Westside Road gravel pits can be picked up and carried over the Columbia River.
The same goes for the smoke from the asphalt plant.
Van Yzerloo said that on some days, when the wind blew the snoke towards his property, it was impossible to work.
“My biggest question is who in the ministry thought it was in the best interest of an active and healthy town to go directly upwind of it and set something like this up,” said Van Vzerloo. “There are thousands of hectares where they could have done this where it would not have affected the general population. Here they are, they set up within city limits and they just go for it.”