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LETTER: The Xinyi plant proposal

Xinyi plant it is not yet a 'done deal'. Reader says there are things you should know
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The following letter to the editor was submitted by Guelph resident Mary H. Rubio:

To Concerned Residents of Guelph and Surrounding Townships:

Everyone in Guelph-Eramosa Township (GET) and the Guelph area should be concerned about the Xinyi Float-Glass plant proposal. This massive industrial plant presents hazards to the entire area. People have only learned about this plant quite recently, even though official planning has been “under the radar” for months. Some of our local elected officialsare fast-tracking it without adequate public consultation or complete environmental assessment.

However, it is NOT YET a “done deal.” There are things you should know.

Details about proposed Xinyi glass-float plant:

What: Xinyi has purchased about 125 acres right outside Guelph, and they propose to build a 2 million sq ft mega-plant which will be about 7 stories in height. It will be 2/3 the size of the entire Cambridge Toyota plant which sits on 400 acres. They are now asking GET to change the Zoning By-laws in order to squeeze this plant onto the site which is both too small and NOT zoned for such a use. That change will be voted on May 9.

Traffic: Located at the intersection of Highway 124 and County Rd 32, this massive plant will increase the already heavy traffic when Xinyi’s 100-200 trucks per day travel on this road system.

Water usage: The plant will pump 1.6 MILLION litres of water out of our aquifers DAILY, year after year. This rural area is zoned for “dry industrial” use – “dry” means industrial developments that “do not use significant amounts of water in their operation.” This mega-plant will use an estimated 70 per cent of the entire township’s present yearly water consumption. Water is not an infinitely renewable resource: just look to our close neighbour Erin who will spend another $600,000 hoping to find another viable water source for their town. Guelph already rations water in summertime. The Queensdale wellhead (on the Xinyi side of Guelph) is already deemed “unsustainable.” Nestle already takes water from our aquifers. Trained Hydrogeologists say aquifers are connected. No one knows if prolonged droughts or Climate Change will damage or deplete Guelph’s aquifers, some of which are already under threat.

Water purity: All the Guelph aquifers are refilled by ground water (rain, snow, run-offs). Quantity of water is one concern, but Quality is a bigger one. (Remember “Walkerton”?) A massive plant like Xinyi will produce chemical and other effluents, and some will drain into ground water.

Incredibly, the Xinyi plant will sit on the boundary but just outside the Province’s “Source Water Protection” area which may exempt Xinyi from a “Tier 3 Assessment” through the “Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change” (MOECC). This may mean lesser scrutiny of Xinyi’s effect on the entire Environment. MOECC is responsible for granting “Permits to Take Water” (PTTW). They should do the full Tier # 3 Assessment.

Private Wells: Even worse, private wells do NOT have protection under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Most residents of GET have their own private wells. Pollution of these wells would not be covered by Provincial Legislation, according to the “Canadian Environmental Law Association” (CELA). Residents are afraid their wells will be affected – or go dry.

Fire and Explosion Danger: Danger of fire is so extreme Xinyi is requesting an on-site dormitory to house firefighters on the premises at all times. Now consider this, the enormous furnace this plant requires will be located at the convergence of two propane storage facilities (Superior Propane), a gas station and a chemical plant. The City of Guelph Fire Department who monitors this area says it would not be equipped to deal with a massive explosion or fire. Do you recall the “Sunrise Propane Explosion” in Toronto/Downsview in 2008? Google it, and read about the damages, lawsuits, and bankruptcies.

Personnel Safety: To house the 60 – 100 proposed temporary foreign workers on the premises, rather than in local hotels, Xinyi wants us to change the Township By-Laws at the May 9 meeting. Our By-Laws were set up for reasons of safety. Foreign workers, living in dorms on site without cars, would have less chance of escape than the many residents nearby along 124 and 32. Many house windows were blown out during in the Sunrise Explosion and people fled in the middle of the night. The proposed plant presents hazards by its scale and location.

Conclusion: Some of our councilors seem prepared to rush these changes through without regard for the consequences. There are many environmental, employment, financial, and tax issues, but the water, fire, traffic, safety, and pollution issues loom largest. By-Laws should not be changed without a thorough study of the implications. The GET Council should make all reports accessible to the public for discussion. There has been a shocking lack of transparency about the entire project. Two months after MOECC advised that there be community information meetings, Xinyi and GET officials held one poorly advertised meeting which furnished only sketchy details. Many people are only now hearing of it.

The only public GET meeting where interested people can ask questions, raise objections, or submit letters is at the GET Meeting of May 9, Wednesday, at 7 p.m., Marden Community Centre, 7368 Wellington Road 30, Guelph/Eramosa. People who do not speak or write letters to Council before this meeting are ineligible to sign petitions later. Of great concern: No site plan has been presented yet, and no public meetings will be required once one is produced after May 9.

May 9 Agenda: see Guelph-Eramosa Township Website.

Please check out this website for more information:

Mary H. Rubio,
R. R. 6, Guelph, ON