Letters to the Editor 

Not all quiet on the asphalt front

Not all quiet on the asphalt front

Although the community has been fairly quiet on the topic of the asphalt plant in recent weeks, this doesn't necessarily mean that all is well.  On the contrary: all is NOT well in Whistler. New residents of Cheakamus Crossing (like ourselves) have seen first-hand over the past several weeks the impacts of the asphalt plant in operation.

Honestly, it's a lot worse than we expected. The smell - strong, acrid and lingering - is like a warning to flee. It gets right into your throat and lungs and sticks around, heavy and thick, giving us headaches and sore throats.

Something that smells this bad definitely can't be good for you - and research confirms that the emissions from the asphalt plant can cause serious health problems like respiratory illness, asthma, lung disease and even death in the very young and old. Hopefully the parents of new babies in the neighbourhood are taking precautions and not spending time outside when the plant is running.

It's tragic to think of what the consequences could be for the young children in the area exposed to these past several months of toxic air quality.

We have a child ourselves and when the plant is operating we have developed a bit of a routine based around fear for our health: We keep our windows closed (but we can still sometimes smell the toxic odour inside our house). We keep our one-year-old son inside, or we leave the neighbourhood for as much of the day as possible.

This may sound paranoid to some of you but if it does, we bet you've never spent time in our 'hood when the plant is in full swing. If you've smelled the odour and felt the toxins enter your body with every breath, we bet you'd be staying clear as well.

That said, we do agree it's pretty crazy - crazy that we need to even consider measures like staying inside, crazy that an old, grungy, polluting, illegal asphalt plant is spewing out toxic emissions less than 300 metres from the front doorsteps of Whistler's Olympic legacy neighbourhood. We live in Whistler, B.C., Canada in the year 2010.  Shouldn't we be able to breathe the air without worrying that it might make us sick? Shouldn't someone be doing something about this situation?

It's not even as though the asphalt plant is a decent, law-abiding business. Not only is the asphalt plant in violation of the current RMOW zoning bylaws (i.e. illegally operating on land that is not zoned for asphalt production), but it's also violating at least three items within their License of Occupation from the Province. As citizens of Whistler and B.C., we strongly believe that the relevant governing bodies have a clear responsibility to take action to protect the health of our families, our visitors (remember the hostel and the Whistler Athletes Centre are host to international visitors and elite athletes) and our environment.

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