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Normiska moving forward with plans

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About 50 people turned up at the Civic Centre last night to hear what representatives from Normiska Corp. had to say about their plans for a peat plant here.

Alex Bartholomew, general manager for Normiska, led the half-hour presentation, giving details on the company’s short and long-term operation plans.

Topping Normiska’s list of priorities is next month’s start of site preparation for a peat processing plant, slated for construction next spring at its newly-acquired property on McIrvine Road.

That site, roughly 60 acres in size, is located on the west side of McIrvine Road between Fifth Street and Eighth Street. It was approved for sale to Normiska by town council at its regular meeting Monday night.

Bartholomew said that for the first year or so, activities at the peat plant will centre around processing horticultural peat from Normiska’s 200-acre site in Miscampbell, as well as processing of mulches from bark supplied by Abitibi-Consolidated.

Normiska recently penned a 20-year bark supply agreement with the mill here.

“We will start with a big emphasis on processing landscaping mulch . . . on the manufacture and sale of [it]," Bartholomew said. "It is a relatively simple product with a high market value.”

But long-term plans include the eventual construction of a secondary processing plant at its McIrvine Road site that would allow for commercial bark composting—a processing operation that includes blending composting bark with peat to produce a growing medium.

This is something Devlin resident Bill McDowall of Northwest Nursery is looking forward to. In fact, he will have a front row seat to at least part of the process, and most likely a first hand in some of it.

He was hired two weeks ago as Normiska’s peat bog manager.

“Composting is really exciting, especially for [nursery owners],” said McDowall, who did the original survey for Normiska of the peat bog in Miscampbell.

Meanwhile, Bartholomew also touched on some areas Normiska felt might be of concern to the public once the plant is operational—things like vehicle traffic, noise and dust levels, and water quality.

He claimed there should be little or no problems in any of these areas, making special mention of the care that will be taken to eliminate dust emissions common at peat plants.

“The peat process does generate dust [but] there should be no dust emissions from the operation," he stressed. "We will have cyclone systems for collecting dust that will put it back into the finished product.”

Bartholomew also said there would be virtually no unpleasant odour from the processing plant.

Adequate ditching around the entire site will contain any potential run-off from the processing plant, he said. But he also noted the plant already is considered a clean operation to begin with and so it probably would not create water quality problems.

Normiska is awaiting a Ministry of Environment permit for the McIrvine site.

“It’s all plus, plus, plus as far as I’m concerned," enthused McDowall. "[Normiska] is a very cautious company and they have researched their markets well.”

And Bartholomew indicated he will focus on hiring locally for both the peat bog operations and the processing plant, with an estimated 30 jobs being created here within the next few years.

Also on hand at last night’s meeting were Normiska president David Graham and David Barbour, its managing director of operations.

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