District continues efforts with Teck to clear mud
On February 5, District of Sparwood council met with representatives of Teck Coal Ltd. (Teck) to discuss the issue of coal debris (mud) on Highway 3.
At issue was the considerable amount of mud falling off Frontline trucks while they were hauling coal between Teck’s Elkview Operations and Coal Mountain Operations.
The concern to council and residents of Sparwood was not simply the aesthetics from the mud turning the highway black, but that it was causing a major safety concern to the community as a result of the slippery road surface.
Observing the discussions between council and Teck from the gallery, was Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka and numerous concerned Sparwood citizens.
Mayor David Wilks provided the gallery with an opportunity to ask questions and share any comments they had about what had been discussed before the meeting adjourned.
During that question period Teck made a commitment to council to investigate: the feasibility of adding two steam bay attendants (night shift) at Coal Mountain; where the haul trucks were parking; and whether it was possible to suspend truck transport operations when temperatures fell between +5 and -5 Celsius or when Mainroad (the highway maintenance contractor for the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure) had applied anti-ice and brine to the roads to prevent snow from sticking.
Following its investigation, Teck confirmed that some of Frontline’s trucks were indeed being parked on Douglas Fir Road, and to address the issue Teck had identified additional parking space at Elkview Operations.
Nic Milligan, Teck’s Manager of Community & Governmental Affairs, indicated in his response to Mayor Wilks that the “keeping trucks outside of the community” language within their permit was intended to prevent the haul trucks from being parked in “non industrial” areas around the community (e.g. Causeway Bay Hotel parking lot), and that the permit allowed the trucks to be parked in the contractor’s yard.
Mr. Milligan went on to say that Teck had inspected Douglas Fir Road and found that it was not dirty enough to warrant cleaning at this time, however, they would revisit it when the weather warmed, and again when the project concluded.
Although Teck was unable to add two additional night shift workers, it was able to identify some efficiencies which has enabled it to increase the number of trucks washed per day from four to six. The site supervisor will continue to assess the fleet to prioritize trucks that require cleaning.
Finally, in response to the possibility of suspending haul operations, Teck’s observation was that with the additional crushed rock placed on the stockpile access road at the Elkview Operations and use of the larger street sweeper since January, that it has effectively mitigated the amount of material accumulation and that the highway continues to be maintained in good condition.
Given the remaining coal identified for transport and processing at the Coal Mountain Operations, Teck expects its coal haul contract will be completed before the middle of April. If road conditions are acceptable to Mayor and Council, they would prefer to complete this work with as little delay as possible.
Teck has promised that it will continue to monitor road conditions on a daily basis with trucking operations suspended when warranted.
In response to the comments received from Teck, Mayor Wilks stated, “Mayor and council would encourage Teck to apply for an amendment to their permit issued by the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources, as the permit clearly states that ‘no trucks are allowed within the community.’ We recognize that trucks must enter the community for fuel and maintenance, but the permit currently makes no exception for this. Council would like to thank Teck for their cooperation in this matter.”
District of Sparwood