Catalyst’s water pumps exempt from noise bylaw

The pumps would be powered by 10 “low noise/low emissions” diesel generators.

The Town of Lake Cowichan has approved Catalyst Paper Corporation’s request to be exempt from the local noise bylaw should the company install water pumps on the lake’s weir for use during periods of dangerously low water levels in the Cowichan River.

At the town’s regular monthly council meeting on Jan. 26, municipal representatives discussed Catalyst’s application for Relief of Noise Bylaw, which laid out proposed plans to use 20 low velocity pumps to transfer lake water over the weir near the boat lock.

The pumps would be powered by 10 “low noise/low emissions” diesel generators.

According to the pump project’s environmental management plan, one generator emits 70 decibels at a distance of 20 feet and they would have to run 24 hours a day.

“While the generators are considered amongst the quietest in use, we anticipate potential violation of the bylaw given the 24 hour day service,” said Catalyst vice-president and mill manager Harold Norlund in a letter to the town.

Catalyst’s proposal to pump water from the lake is pending approval from the B.C. government.

The environmental management plan for the project (which was also submitted to town council) has some conflicting information about the location of the pumps’ generators. The document states that the generators “will be situated on lands either north of the boat lock or to the south of the floodgates,” but later that they will be placed on the northern shore near the boat lock.

Mayor Ross Forrest confirmed this location and emphasized the necessity of measures like the pumping system.

“We’re hoping that we will have more snow back this year and we get through the river fine but there’s no guarantee,” he said. “Nobody wants to do it. Catalyst doesn’t want to do it, but there isn’t going to be a choice if it gets down to that level. It’s up to us if we’re going to hold back the flow of the river because of noise. And there will be noise. There’s no doubt about that.”

Coun. Tim McGonigle said he supports the plan to pump from the lake despite the noise, but did want to know exactly how much noise the process would cause when all 10 generators are running. He requested town staff report back with this information.

In an email to the Gazette, Catalyst’s director of communications Eduarda Hodgins said the company wants to answer the newspaper’s questions about the projected total sound impact of the pumps and their generators, but could not do so by press time.

Council voted unanimously in favour of exempting Catalyst from its Control of Noise bylaw. This bylaw does not stipulate a specific decibel level that people  are prohibited from exceeding.