By Chris Pickup

An asphalt storage facility to be built on agricultural land south of Concession 3 near the Imperial Oil Refinery was approved by council last week. 

The approval had been delayed while county staff investigated a proposed change of height of the four storage tanks from the zoned allowance of 14 metres to 18, and to look into questions raised by a local resident.

 Asphalt is a byproduct of oil refining. The proponent Suit Kote operates primarily as road builders in the north eastern U.S. and most of the product will be sent by road into the U.S. 

The storage area will also allow the refinery to produce more asphalt that could be potentially sold in Ontario.

Mayor Hewitt asked why the company was not encouraged to locate onto land zoned for industrial use. “The burden of cost is shifted onto other zoning.”

“We explored a lot of options,” SuitKote representative Ryan Dubois told council. “CNN land was too narrow, the industrial park didn’t want to sell less than 100 acres, much of which we can’t use and Stelco owns the rail spur in the industrial park we would need to use long term.

It just didn’t seem to pan out.”

“There is a large gravel area laid down as a staging area for green energy  wind turbine projects on this site, which is ancillary to Imperial Oil,” county staff Mike Evers noted of the Concession 3 site. 

Nanticoke’s Imperial Oil and SuitKote have been using the property for some nine years as an area where Imperial sends in the asphalt in rail tankers via an existing rail spur and Suit Kote transfers and tanker-trucks it out.

“While the agricultural zoning is not being changed, usage of lands lies with MPAC”, Evers emphasized. “It’s not zoning that drives taxes, land use does.” 

The other end of the property in question will still be available for agricultural use and leaving the whole property zoning as agricultural gives the county more options if the asphalt use finishes in the future, he added.

Councillor Dan Lawrence asked whether an impact study had been done on the roads, and if upgrades were needed, were the applicants obligated to fund them.

The property was subject to a site plan review, a staff report noted. The review identified the need for road upgrades to ensure the 1.2 km portion of Concession 3 was constructed to the appropriate axle weight of the proposed trucks that would carry material to and from the property.

The preliminary estimate was $900,000 for the required roadway improvements and the proponent is prepared to undertake the necessary upgrades.  

Our primary trade is as road builders,” Dubois noted, adding they anticipated little additional truck traffic.

The site plan also mandates buffering and landscaping to minimize the impact on a neighbouring residence.

A neighbour who lives some 3 kms from the site was worried about environmental and safety aspects of the facility. 

The staff report noted an initial field survey and natural environment overview was completed. The proposed development will not negatively impact the adjacent woodlots. 

A containment area is designed with berms based on tank size to protect from spills and contaminating soil and groundwater systems.  Nanticoke Creek will be protected by those containment structures. 

Permits are also required from Ministry of the Environment Climate and Parks (MECP), as well as Environmental Compliance Approval.

As for safety, a private stormwater facility will be designed to maintain and pump water to provide fire protection, if needed. Asphalt products are solid at room temperature and unlikely to create an explosive or hazardous situation, the staff report notes.

The county’s fire chief Jason Gallagher told council they have resources to fight any such fires and have access to specialized firefighting equipment such as the refinery foam trucks.

In the event of a train of rail cars blocking roads for 30 to 40 minutes, as they tend to do from time to time, Gallagher said they would simply send for the second closest station. 

Council approval was unanimous.