Almost 400 concerned citizens crowded into the Ontario Racquet Club on Tuesday March 3, to hear why the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) felt that pollution levels in Clarkson would not be affected by the addition of an 850MW natural-gas power plant in the area. Attended by local residents as well as local government leaders such as MPP Charles Sousa, Ward 2 Councillor Pat Mullin, and Mayor Hazel McCallion, the OPA explained how their hypothetical modelling system predicted that there would be a zero increase in deaths as a result of the proposed building of the Clarkson power plant.
This study and its conclusions, produced by the firm Jacques Whitford Consultants, were then addressed by Dr. Boyd Upper and Julie Desjardins, both of whom are members of the Clarkson Airshed Study Advisory Committee and who pointed out the numerous flaws it contained. For example, the model subtracted average emissions from Lakeview (as well as Nanticoke and Lambton) from the Clarkson area, despite the fact that Lakeview has been closed since 2005. Also, the dispersion models used by Jacques Whitford were not according to industry standards, and so the conclusion that resident health would not be affected is questionable as well.
Councillor Mullin noted that it was the Ministry of the Environment, not the OPA and Ministry of Energy, which conducted the Clarkson Airshed Study (CAS) and that it was shameful the Environment ministry was not present at the meeting defending the air quality of residents. Mayor McCallion went a step further, telling OPA officials on hand that the message tonight is clear and as far as she is concerned, no plant is coming to Clarkson. These remarks were met by thunderous applause and a sustained standing ovation from the assembled citizens, not to mention the obvious discomfort of the OPA representatives.
Dr. David Mowat, Peel Medical Officer of Health, agreed that the Whitford study used by the OPA to argue that pollution would not be produced was flawed. He also agreed with Upper and Desjardins that the measured air quality would almost certainly degrade with a power plant in the area, based on measured results from many other communities.
Since the Clarkson (Sithe) plant is being proposed as a peaker generating station — only used during peak demand periods — Mowat pointed out that it will produce more pollution than on average, since the greatest emissions occur during start-up and shut-down. This also means that it will be used during the hottest times of the year, when air quality is already at its worst.