The Letter The Sault Star Didn’t Want To Publish

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The following Letter to the Editor by Peter Chow was originally submitted to the Sault Star. The letter was rejected by their editorial board.  Since then, Chow has shared his opinions and letter on social media.

Sault Ste Marie desperately needs the jobs that the proposed Noront Resources ferrochrome production facility would bring but we need to be vigilant that this does not come at the expense of the health of our people and our environment.

Hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) is the inevitable byproduct of chromium manufacturing. It is a known genotoxic carcinogen, potentially causing cancers of the lung and upper respiratory tract through inhalation and gastrointestinal cancers through ingestion of contaminated water. As well there are a myriad of other serious health problems related to hexavalent chromium exposure.

Hexavalent chromium gained widespread notoriety through the movie “Erin Brockovich” starring Julia Roberts. The movie documented the true story of a law clerk who spearheaded a class-action lawsuit against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) over the devastating health effects of hexavalent chromium on the town of Hinkley, California. In 1996 PG&E settled for $333 million, the largest settlement for a direct-action lawsuit in history. PG&E settled the last of the cases involved with the Hinkley claim in 2008.

PG&E began offering to buy up homes in Hinkley in 2010. Many residents took the offer and left town and their homes were promptly bulldozed by PG&E. By 2016 according to the New York Times, Hinkley, California had became a toxic ghost town, its groundwater and soil contaminated by hexavalent chromium. The population dwindled to the point that the last elementary school in the town closed in 2013.

Hexavalent chromium persists to this day in the soil, groundwater and drinking water in Hinkley. PG&E estimates it will take 50 years for the contamination to be cleaned up. For many years PG&E supplied bottled drinking water to all residents in the affected zone. Today many areas not only in California but all across the US have levels of hexavalent chromium in their water that exceed recommended guidelines. In fact an interactive map of hexavalent chromium contamination across the US shows that tap water in Chippewa County, across our International Bridge, has tested for unhealthy levels.

Noront Resources promises that this proposed ferrochrome production facility will have the capability to capture and remove its hexavalent chromium. We need to come to better understand how that will work and the risks associated with the process. We will need a rigorous environmental assessment to ensure that hexavalent chromium will not contaminate our environment, our groundwater and our drinking water. We have to be fully informed and diligent about the issue to ensure that Sault Ste Marie does not become another Hinkley (or Sarnia, Ontario, but that is another story).

-Dr. Peter Chow

11 COMMENTS

  1. Very amusing considering all the other far more damaging things people have to be concerned with in modern society. Say like opioids, toxic fumes from plastics (aka new car smell), car exhaust gases, cigarette smoke pesticides just to mention a few. But hey if you don’t want the business there are plenty of others who do.

    • So I guess you’re saying we should invite the cancer plant in, eliminate the opioid crisis, toxic fumes from plastics problem, car exhaust gases problem, cigarette smoke problem, and pesticides problem BEFORE looking at the Ferrochrome Smelting cancer problem that doesn’t exist right now Mielke?

      That would be hilarious if it wasn’t so DEADLY.

      BTW, nobody ever said we don’t want the jobs. We just don’t want the massive amount of cancer that will come to our youth and unborn by putting the smelter at the proposed ASI site.

      If The NorOnt shareholders want to make it easy for a bigger fish to take over priority #1 for them will have to be the cancer health of Saultites, and surrounding area residents, or there ain’t gonna be a fish big enough to stand up to us cancer-affected, rabid sharks.

      If ya know what I mean.

      Citizen Mark Brown
      CitizensFirst(at)shaw.ca

  2. Probably shouldn’t be relying on a scientifically inaccurate movie to scare residents out of embracing new industry.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/11/health/reflections-a-hit-movie-is-rated-f-in-science.html

    It’s easy for a well paid doctor, who doesn’t need to rely on new industry as a means for providing for his family, to just dismiss the benefits and jump straight to disputed science and a fictitious Hollywood movie based on a true story.

    I’m actually quite disappointed that a doctor would do something so irresponsible, especially when it comes to their field.

    • Perhaps you’re not aware of the fact that the Outukumpu Ferrochrome Smelter located about 15 kilometers OUTSIDE OF Torino Finland is about 10 Kilometers away from ANY HUMAN because ALL Ferrochrome Smelters produce an UNAVOIDABLE cancer-causing by-product (Chromium VI) that enters the air (rainwater), and groundwater.

      And that’s why they have the Finnish Ferrrochrome Smelter 10 km away from ANY HUMAN as opposed to being on the edge of downtown Tornio (population 22,000)… so they can properly scrub it, and dilute it in tailings ponds without the Chromium VI that ALWAYS gets into the air, ground and water from the Ferrochrome Smelting LEAKAGE affecting any human.

      A Smelter location of 10 km away from any human works for Finland to protect 22,000 of their people from cancer.

      This plant will be located where there are approximately 50,000 Sault Citizens WITHIN 10 km of the Ferrochrome Smelting Plant.

      Cancer DEATHS of a significant number of everyday Sault citizens WHO DON’T WORK at this plant will be going up if this is Ferrochrome Smelter is located near the slag pitts off of Base Line on the St. Mary’s River about 10 km away from PINE STREET.

      Those are the facts @Informed.

      Cancer caused by this ChromiumVI producing Ferrochrome Smelter located upwind of our downtown is a CERTAINTY.

      Ask Tornio Finlanders at the Outukumpu Headquarters.

      BTW, @Informed, I’m offended that you would try to diminish the serious cancer concerns surrounding the placement of this new Ferrochrome Smelter inside our community for the next fifty years. I understand that feeding our families are extremely important, however, there are ways we can still get all of the jobs that this new smelter has to offer WITHOUT a single person getting cancer from this new plant.

      But that will require the owners to locate the Ferrochrome Smelter close to the Sault that is at least 10 km away from ANY HUMAN like they HAVE DONE IN FINLAND.

      Apparently NorOnt’s Mr. Coutts wants to do this Ferrochrome Smelter like they did it in Finland. He’s said as much many many times.

      That definitely bodes well for NOT locating the new smelter on ASI lands!!

      Hey, @Informed, if you know Mr. Coutts have him email me so we can begin to talk about working some CANCER-FREE Ferrochrome Smelter location out. Please and thank-you.

      Citizen Mark Brown
      CitizensFirst(at)shaw.ca

  3. People should not over-react to the Noront Resources announcement regarding a FerroChrome Plant in Sault Ste. Marie. From what I have read, Noront is essentially a junior exploration company which has a large deposit in the ‘Ring of Fire’. The company stock price is at 25 cents/share. To develop the mine and transportation infrastructure will take a decade and require major company investment and Federal-Provincial support. The announcement was mostly marketing for Noront, which is trying to punch above its weight class. Environmental assessments will be required at both the extraction sites and processing site.

    • WRONG!!

      The time for having our Mayor, MPP, Premier, and the Junior Mining Company owners EXPLAIN how this CERTAIN ADDITION to the Sault’s already unnaturally high rates of CANCER of our people is NOW if the Junior Mining Company doesn’t want it’s 25 cent stock to plunge to 0 cents a stock when an Environmental Assessment comes around.

      Waiting gets us citizens and the Junior Mining Company no closer to a solution to having this plant close enough to the Sault so workers can live here and work there, but far enough away from our the Sault, and everybody, that NOT ONE PERSON GETS CANCER FROM THIS PLANT.

      Stop negotiating with the cancer-causing steel plant Mr. Coutts.

      That’s the WRONG PLACE for this cancer-causing Ferrochrome Smelter (and Timmins is the wrong place too. We don’t want them to get cancer, and it’s not cost effective for whatever company you’re hoping will buy you out).

      The waterfront location on west edge of the Sault’s urban service line a couple of kilometers upwind of the new ACR Agawa Canyon Tour Train, and a few kilometers upwind of the heart of our downtown just ain’t cutting it as a location that we tens of thousands of cancer-concerned citizens will accept.

      Work with us cancer-concerned citizens of Sault Ste. Marie Mr. Coutts, Mayor Provenzano, and MPP Romano. Don’t ignore us as if we don’t exist. We do, and you know it. We know FIRST HAND the city-wide devastation and despair caused by cancer-producing plants. We been there, and we’ve done that, and we’re NEVER going to let that happen again.

      Our city is just beginning to recover from the CENTURY OF CANCER that was foisted upon us by our well-intentioned predecessor citizens. Despite our jobs, jobs, jobs MPP Ross Romano’s, and our ‘look what I’ve done for the Sault’ Mayor Provenzano’s good intentions, another HALF CENTURY OF CANCER is NOT something we citizens are interested in no matter how many jobs they produce during the next 50 years.

      Despite what you’ve been told, Mr. Coutts, we don’t need your cancer-causing jobs. Our unemployment rate is about 5% right now, and there’ll be TONS OF RETIREMENTS at the Steel Plant over the next decade making recruiting the types of skilled and non-skilled employees that you need next to impossible.

      That, coupled with the fact that you have a significant part of the Sault’s population who want nothing to do with cancer-causing plants being located on the edge of our downtown means that your plans for a Ferrochrome Plant, with or without an ASI location, will make it EXTREMELY HARD for whoever you plan on selling your Ring of Fire interests to to actually EVER start making smelted chromium in Sault Ste. Marie a HIGHLY UNLIKELY PROPOSITION.

      The Base Line Algoma Steel location is a NON-STARTER for the tens of thousands of cancer-concerned Sault citizens.

      They will have NO AVAILABLE WORKFORCE to choose from without paying the ginormous bucks.

      The current proposed ASI location will cause humongous untold amounts of cancer in our citizens so STOP wasting your time and money on that location.

      Work with us cancer-concerned citizens Mr. Coutts.

      BTW location-wise our objective is a Ferrrochrome Smelting Plant that doesn’t cause a single human cancer-related incident outside of the walls of the Ferrochrome Smelting plant, but that keeps your company as close to cost effective road, ship, and rail distribution.

      And that should be YOUR OBJECTIVE TOO, but it just ain’t happening at your currently proposed location on the Sault’s downtown, waterfront ASI lands.

      The time to work out a close-to-the-Sault, cancer-free location is NOW, Mr. Coutts, because if you haven’t negotiated a cancer-free location by the time it gets to an Environmental Assessment your stock price will plunge to 0 cents a share, and your new allies on this project won’t like that at all sir.

      That’s a GUARANTEE you can take to the bank, Mr. Coutts, or the poorhouse as the case may be.

      Contact me if you want to begin discussing how we can get this cancer-free thing done Mr. Coutts.

      BTW, we’re not interested in your stock AT ALL, we’re interested in a cancer-free location close to the Sault so we can have all of the jobs with NOBODY in the world that is outside of the Ferrochrome Smelter walls getting ANY cancer.

      I look forward to hearing from you sir.

      Citizen Mark Brown
      CitizensFirst(at)shaw.ca

  4. Thanks to Dr. Chow for his courage and educational stance.
    Steps forward: 1) Absorb the science of his letter, 2) Watch the movie he references, 3) Carefully consider alternate places to live.
    Sad times for a beautiful area.

  5. My wife, son and I, and many of our neighbours are also against more cancer in the Sault which this smelter will definitely bring Dr. Chow.

    The Mayor and MPP will have to find a way to bring this smelter to our community without it causing one more cancer tragedy if they want our family’s support. Of course we appreciate the jobs it will bring, but even one cancer-affected life is too much to pay in our opinions.

    We had to take the high rates of cancer caused by the steel plant because it’s been here for 100+years.

    But we’ve been there, done that, and it ain’t NEVER HAPPENING AGAIN!!

    Citizen Mark Brown

    P.S. Thank-you for writing this Letter, Dr. Chow, and for having the persistence to give this community-wide Ferrochrome Smelter Cancer concern a voice. It’s NEVER too late. Please let me know if there is anything our family can do to help ensure that NO MORE CANCER comes to Sault Ste. Marie from this NEW smelter, and we will be there to help you in any way we can. CitizensFirst(at)shaw.ca

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