An environmental assessment of a proposal by Quinlan Bros. Ltd. to construct and operate a chitin/chitosan production facility and laboratory in Bay de Verde has been delayed by almost two months.
The review process is being carried out by the provincial Department of Environment and Conservation.
The undertaking was registered with the province on April 20, and the deadline for public comments was May 25.
Environment and Conservation Minister Ross Wiseman was expected to decide on the project by June 4. However, no decision has been made.
A spokesperson for the department wrote in an email to The Compass: “The minister’s decision on this matter hasn’t been made yet. Once a decision is reached, an environmental assessment bulletin will be issued.”
Company in ‘decision-making mode’
Last week, in a guarded and somewhat evasive statement, company manager Robin Quinlan said, “I don’t really have much to say … until such a time as we make a decision officially.” He indicated the company is in a “decision-making mode.”
Quinlan also said the company is not waiting on anything, a surprising response, considering the plant will not materialize without the government’s stamp of approval.
“We’re just analyzing our business plan internally, and that’s it,” he stated.
Bay de Verde Mayor Gerard Murphy added, “I would imagine they have to assess where they are, to see if it’s indeed a viable operation.”
From shellfish to chitin.
The company’s proposal calls for the use of waste material from shellfish processing to manufacture chitin.
This natural material is used in, among other things, water treatment systems, drilling fluids for the oil and gas sector, and the cosmetics industry.
According to information re-leased by the province, the operation involves processing shellfish waste into a powder using potassium, hydroxide, hydrochloric acid and water.
The existing shellfish processing plant in Bay de Verde would be expanded to accommodate the proposed chitin production facility.
The facility is slated to operate 24 hours a day for approximately eight months of the year, with a winter shutdown.
Construction is expected to start in the fall of 2011.
The project comes with a hefty price tag, with estimates ranging from $5 million to $6.5 million.
In an earlier interview Quinlan referred to the chitin plant as “another link in the chain” to ensure the long-term viability of its Bay de Verde operation.
The Bay de Verde council voted 4-3 to grant approval-in-principle to the project at a council meeting on March 3.
The company initially proposed the establishment of the plant in Old Perlican, 12 kilometres away. Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Charlene Johnson approved the environmental preview report in March 2009.
But when Old Perlican residents opposed the project, the company temporarily shelved the idea.
In early 2008, the St. John’s-based company was awarded up to $2.4 million under ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund in order to conduct research and development into the processing of chitin and chitosan.
To allay the fears of Bay de Verde residents who have expressed concerns about air emissions, the discharge of effluent into the marine ecosystem, and the transport and use of hazardous chemicals, the company offered reassurances that all safety precautions will be taken.
Murphy said council has heard “absolutely nothing” from either the government or the company.
In an environmental assessment bulletin issued by the government on April 20, the Quinlan Bros.’ proposal was one of three awaiting the minister’s decision early in June. The others are St. George’s Area Cranberry Farm and Deer Lake Pressure Treated Lumber Treatment Plant. Another undertaking — the Terrenceville - Yellow Cove ATV Trail — was released.
Murphy believes the delay is “part of the process.” However, because he hasn’t dealt with the environmental assessment process before, he said he doesn’t know where things are with it.
Company ‘going full tilt’
Meanwhile, the company is “going full tilt” with snow crab production and shrimp processing, Murphy indicated. He said he’s “sure their human resources have been deployed there.”
Quinlan said once a decision is made, the media will be contacted “as to what it is exactly we’re doing here.”