The appropriate use of land is an enormously effective way of reducing the impact of hazards on communities.
That is why we must require risk-based land use assessments to be done, like the ones required by Edmonton for hazardous developments that may have incidents with societal risks that have very high consequences on the surrounding communities.
Currently, Richmond, Delta, and Port Metro Vancouver are not using any risk-based land use assessments for hazardous developments on their industrial lands. In particular, it is not being done for the environmental assessment underway by B.C. EAO and PMV for the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation proposal to bring Panamax tankers containing highly flammable and toxic jet fuel into the heart of the Fraser River estuary, unload it there and store it in a large 80,000,000-litre tank farm.
This facility is near condominiums, high-intensity traffic areas and an entertainment complex. Although the federal environmental review process in 1989 did address the risks of such a facility (and of a much smaller-scale proposal), it was rejected due to its high risk. Nowhere in the federal CEAA or B.C. environmental review process is the outlined fire and explosion risk properly being evaluated for this specific type of a proposal.
Looking at the horrific tank farm explosions, fires and pollution that recently occurred in Miami, Florida, Lamesa, Texas, Buncefield, UK, Jaipur, India, and elsewhere, I find it unbelievable that risk-based land use planning and assessments for highly hazardous industrial sites do not happen in the Lower Mainland. Some communities, e.g., North Vancouver, have addressed risk-based land use planning for natural hazards; e.g., landslides,earthquakes, floods, etc., but not for the industrial hazards. Current practice used for health and safety on industrial sites is typically limited to protection against the hazard or the consequence without necessarily assessing the risk.
Providing buffers between industrial zones and residential zones is not enough, especially when you do not know what the worst case calamity might be on a particular industrial site. It boggles my mind why anyone would locate a hazardous (project) on seismically unstable ground, only 400 metres from a condominium, entertainment and sports complex on the banks of the Fraser River. Can this terrible land use oversight be seen to be deliberate ignorance or maybe even a criminally irresponsible act in land use planning?
Jim Ronback, director of VAPOR Delta
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