Bruce Montone

Local nuclear plan discussed with province, more meetings to come

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Emergency officials in Amherstburg recently held a meeting with the province to discuss its nuclear plan with more questions arising from the meeting.

Bruce Montone, Amherstburg’s fire chief and emergency management co-ordinator, met with provincial officials recently to discuss the plan and how the Ontario government can support the municipality.

“It was a positive discussion,” said Montone. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time.”

The discussion centered mainly on the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP) and the differences between the 2009 version and the new one.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

Montone indicated there are indications the province will take on monitoring and decontamination responsibilities in the event of an incident, but added there are still questions on how that would be rolled out.

“The challenge is how are they going to handle this,” said Montone.

There are concerns over the timeline of events should an incident happen, noting it could take upwards of 12 hours to get to Amherstburg. The support could be in the form of expertise and there are also questions on how it could be funded.

There are also challenges regarding public notification and alerts. The sirens will need improvements, Montone indicated.

“Our current system is quite old and requires upgrades,” he said.

Portions of the primary zone can’t hear the sirens, Montone added. Cost is also a factor as is who is going to fund it.

The Fermi II nuclear power plant gives $25,000 to support annual emergency planning efforts in Amherstburg. However, fire chief and community emergency planning co-ordinator Bruce Montone is calling for help from the provincial government.

The potassium iodide (KI) pills are another issue that has to be resolved, he stated. KI pills help prevent the development of thyroid cancer, and are effective at safeguarding children’s thyroid glands and Montone said those pills would be on the way soon. The plan is for all residents in the primary zone to get a KI pill with people in the secondary zone eligible to receive one upon request.

The town is working with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) on providing the pills to the town.

“The KI pills have been ordered. We expect them sometime in early March,” said Montone. “We’re working on how they are going to be distributed.”

The WECHU ordered the pills through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Montone said, and have a shelf life of ten years. Who pays for replacing them is another issue.

“Those kinds of logistics have to be worked out,” said Montone.

Fermi II, which has a different type of reactor than the Canadian nuclear plants, will be getting involved in the implementation planning including the Ministry of Transportation’s traffic plans. The latter plans also involve the town and neighbouring municipalities.

The January meeting was a good one, he suggested, but there is more work to come.

“My overall impression is positive but there are many more unanswered questions,” stated Montone.

There will be another meeting with Minister Marie-France Lalonde later this month, he added.

“We will continue to raise our issues with her,” said Montone.

The town’s plight for support of its nuclear emergency plan was also discussed last week as part of the TVO program “The Agenda.” The show is available through the network’s website at www.tvo.org with the direct link being https://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/is-ontario-prepared-for-a-nuclear-emergency.

Town passes new open burn bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A process that resulted in three public meetings late last summer has concluded with a newly passed open burn bylaw.

Town council passed the new open burn bylaw thanks to a 5-1 vote Monday night. Fire chief Bruce Montone said the bylaw is “reasonably close” to what was presented last year.

Voting in favour of the new bylaw was Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Jason Lavigne, Rick Fryer, Joan Courtney and Leo Meloche. Councillor Diane Pouget was opposed while Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was not at Monday night’s meeting.

Properties will have to be inspected before a permit is granted. The bylaw also contains other provisions depending on the type of fire set, the setting (urban vs. rural) or if a device such as an outdoor fireplace or chiminea is being used. Montone said firefighters will assess each lot before a permit is granted and that an inspection has to be passed before a permit is issued. Some lots may be too small for a campfire but that will be determined through inspection.

“The biggest challenge we had in the community were bonfires,” he said.

A frequent request was to have small campfires so that people could enjoy each others’ company and enjoy outdoor cooking, he added, though noting all fires have to be properly extinguished and will not be allowed to burn out on its own.

A hotline will be established so that people can call in and see if they can have a fire that day, he noted, with the Amherstburg Alert system being another way to notify residents.

“I’m hoping we found a happy medium between those in the community who wanted open burns and those were against it,” said Montone.

Another challenge will be the volume of inspections in the first year, he noted, though that is expected to subside in subsequent years. Upwards of 1,000 people could ask for a permit, he estimated.

DiCarlo said the bylaw was very well thought out and said it won’t amount to Amherstburg being a “pollution zone” as not every resident will be eligible for open burns will be allowed to do it or will want to have a fire.

“It will come down to a property by property basis,” the mayor stated. “There will be things to learn. Now we have put the fire department in a position to educate people.”

Pouget voiced numerous concerns, including the possibility that smoke could infringe on other people’s property and negatively impact seniors, children and those with disabilities.

“(Smoke) contains many of the same toxins as tobacco smoke,” she said. “I can’t play Russian roulette with the health and safety of our residents.”

The bylaw could also “pit neighbour against neighbour,” she believed, as some neighbours won’t be able to have a fire while others will depending on their lot size.

“It will tax our fire department’s resources,” she added.

Courtney admitted she was on the fence until speaking with Montone earlier in the day Monday but was satisfied with what she heard. Fryer said outdoor fires can do such things as uplift a person’s spirit and provide “joyful experiences,” adding that ancestors spent years cooking over open fire.

“Many of us experience more smoke over a barbecue or a stove than a campfire,” added Meloche. “Education is going to be a big part of how you manage smoke from campfires.”

Fight for support of nuclear plan reaches Queen’s Park

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fight to get provincial support from the province for the town’s nuclear emergency plan reached Queen’s Park last week.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak questioned Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde about the level of support – or lack thereof – Amherstburg receives for its nuclear emergency plan in the Legislature last Wednesday. In attendance that day were Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone and deputy fire chief Lee Tome.

Montone believed things went well and hopes to hear from the province in the new year.

“From our perspective, it was handled extremely respectfully,” said Montone.

Montone stated Lalonde came across and chatted with both himself and Tome after the session and “we raised a number of concerns with her.” The fire chief added he believed Lalonde gained new information through the talk and that staff from the province will come to Amherstburg to further discuss the issues.

Following the adjournment of the Legislature for the day, Montone, Tome and Natyshak had a media availability in Toronto where they discussed the issue, including what the provincial and municipal responsibilities are. Montone said in addition to financial aid, the town needs scientific support and training support so that local emergency officials can stay current on the issue.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (left) listens as Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the town’s nuclear emergency response plan during a press conference in Toronto last Wednesday afternoon. (photo courtesy of the Amherstburg Fire Department)

“I was very optimistic when I left Queen’s Park (Wednesday) afternoon,” said Montone. “I certainly felt it was worthwhile. For me, I think it was very useful.”

Montone praised Natyshak for his stance on the issue and the way he advocated for Amherstburg and the region.

“He was very professional yet very firm in his support for us as were all of the local MPP’s,” said Montone. “Taras took hold of the issue and he certainly made (Wednesday’s events) happen. All the credit goes to him for creating the opportunity.”

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has also lent their support to Amherstburg’s cause.

“We’re getting support and acknowledgement from all kinds of areas,” he said.

Montone hopes to have further discussion and meetings with staff and provincial officials early in 2018.

In the Legislature Wednesday, Natyshak said the recent report from the auditor general “made it clear this Liberal government is not prepared to manage a major emergency in the province” and questioned when support can be expected locally.

“When will this Liberal government provide the same level of support to the town of Amherstburg as it does for other areas that receive assistance in the province?” he asked.

Lalonde replied that the province can and will act in cases of emergencies and that a new emergency action plan is being launched, one that will expand emergency management capacity between U.S. states and other provinces.

“None of this addresses the issues of Amherstburg,” responded Natyshak, noting the town has been raising questions since 2015. He accused the ministry of “effectively ignoring” the concerns of the town.

“Will the minister tell the House when people in Amherstburg and the entire region of Essex County can expect the same resources and assistance so they can plan to be as safe as other designated communities in Ontario?” asked Natyshak.

Lalonde replied that nuclear power has been a “backbone” of power in Ontario for 40 years and that the province is willing to work to enhance planning and training.

Natyshak noted the Fermi II nuclear generating station is located approximately 16 km away from Amherstburg. Windsor, Essex County and Amherstburg have all passed motions calling for stronger nuclear emergency response.

“Local leaders have been speaking out for years — calling for the Liberal government to finally wake up and realize that they are leaving southwestern Ontario municipalities to fend for themselves should catastrophe strike. It’s time for the Wynne government to finally take responsibility for emergency management and provide southwestern Ontario communities with the support they need.”

Natyshak told the RTT Friday that “this issue has been escalating to the level of crisis in that every day that goes by is a day that the community of Amherstburg is left vulnerable.”

The issue is now on the province’s radar, Natyshak added.

“They can’t ignore this issue any longer,” he said.

The town has a plan but needs funding and additional supports. Like Montone, Natyshak has optimism that the province is going to come to the table and work with the town. It’s an issue that needs about $100,000 in provincial dollars in addition to the other support.

“This isn’t going to break any budgets at the province,” said Natyshak, adding he is looking for parity in comparison to other municipalities that have a nuclear plant nearby.

The NDP MPP also noted the audience he, Montone and Tome had with the minister and they made it clear to her with the needs are. He called Montone “an incredibly knowledgeable person” and able to relay the town’s requirements to the province.

“It’s simply a matter of public safety,” he added. “We’ll keep fighting and keeping the pressure on. The ball is in their court.”

 

Amherstburg Fire Department trying new method to save money on resources

By Ron Giofu

 

Though the Amherstburg Fire Department will continue with tiered response for medical calls in conjunction with Essex-Windsor EMS, expect to see fewer firefighters respond to calls.

Fire chief Bruce Montone said they are looking to change the way they do business with regards to attendance at low priority calls, noting that upwards of 13 firefighters attend calls. Pointing out the expense to do that, Montone said they are going to cut back on those numbers.

Montone stated that, upon review of the data from thus far in 2017, there aren’t as many calls where firefighters make a large difference versus the amount they actually go out on. He said, as of the Dec. 11 town council meeting, that they responded to 61 medical calls.

“When we further looked into the detail, only 14 of those calls would be ordinarily, under all of the other criteria of the agreement, would we have responded and made a difference,” he said.

Firefighters will be broken up into squads with the squads going out on a rotating basis. Alarm calls with no significant injuries and car crashes where the main duty of firefighters would be to control fluid spills would also see a reduced number of firefighters respond.

Fire chief Bruce Montone

In his report to town council, Montone stated: “Each fire station has assigned 20 volunteer firefighters including officers. It is suggested that each station organize into two groups or squads lead by a volunteer captain and made up of roughly equal numbers of firefighters (nine and ten) plus the responsible district chief attached to both groups which would be called on a rotating basis for those calls not requiring large amounts of resources.”

The chief added that currently a station of 20 firefighters on average has 13 firefighters initially for a 60 per cent turnout rate.

“It is estimated that for those calls and utilizing squads, assuming the same 60 per cent turnout rate from calling a squad of nine or ten, we would see five or six firefighters attend/respond to calls not requiring large amounts of resources,

reducing our costs by approximately half for applicable calls,” Montone also reported.

Montone said in his report that, as of Oct. 17, the cost of responding to medical calls has been $71,530 for the Amherstburg Fire Department. He envisions a cost savings of 40-50 per cent under the new plan.

Amherstburg fire chief calling for province to step up assistance for nuclear emergency planning

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A recent report from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk highlights many of the issues that officials in Amherstburg have also been raising about the town’s needs in relation to nuclear preparedness.

The town’s fire chief and community emergency management co-ordinator has also taken notice of the report and is further pressing the province to help out.

Bruce Montone said Amherstburg receives $25,000 from the Fermi II nuclear facility in nearby Monroe, Michigan. However, Montone is calling for the province to do much more and help contribute to the town’s planning needs and training as he stated the $25,000 from Fermi II is not nearly enough.

“Frankly, it barely pays for our public alerting system,” said Montone.

Montone was pleased that the auditor general’s report validates many of the concerns Amherstburg has with regards to living next door to a U.S.-based nuclear facility. He said he is not looking for a “Cadillac emergency response plan” but wants increased funding and resources to assist the town should a nuclear emergency happen.

“It’s a provincial responsibility, not a municipal responsibility,” the fire chief stated.

Other costs that have to be covered include the KI pills, equipment, ongoing training, public education and research.

“I could go on and on and on,” said Montone.

The town is even battling over the size of the “primary zone” in case of a nuclear emergency. He said it is currently 23 kilometres but face a recommendation to reduce that to 16 kilometres. The reason for that, Montone was told, was “that’s what it is in the U.S.”

Reducing the size of the “primary zone” impacts hundreds of people, he added.

Montone compares Amherstburg with Kincardine with Kincardine being near the Bruce nuclear facility. Kincardine receives $105,000 annually from the province, said Montone, and additional resources from the plant itself.

The Fermi II nuclear power plant, pictured last Sunday afternoon from the side of Front Road South, gives $25,000 to support annual emergency planning efforts in Amherstburg. However, fire chief and community emergency planning co-ordinator Bruce Montone is calling for help from the provincial government.

“Who is coming to help us?” said Montone. “Nobody is coming. That’s who is coming.”

Other municipalities such as Windsor aren’t in a position to offer additional help, the chief added, because they would be busy assisting their own residents.

There has been “zero” progress with the Ontario government, Montone continued.

“We have been in communication with the Premier’s office, the ministry’s office and staff from the province,” said Montone. “All we get is lip service and ‘we’ll talk to you soon.’ I’m done talking and the auditor agrees with us.”

Montone added that “we need help” and that “we are going to keep pushing until we do.” He encouraged others to contact area MPP’s to highlight this issue and make sure the Ontario government moves forward to ensure protective measures are in place.

According to the auditor general’s report: “Some neighbouring U.S. states have nuclear power facilities that could require an emergency response within Ontario. Yet Ontario municipalities that may be affected by the nuclear power facilities receive little assistance from the Province, in contrast to Ontario municipalities that may be affected by nuclear power facilities located inside the province — even though such assistance is a requirement of the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan.”

It adds: “Municipalities located near in-province nuclear power facilities receive assistance with the pre-distribution of thyroid blocking pills (KI pills), practice tests, and funding from the nuclear power companies to assist with their emergency management programs and response training. While the nearby U.S. power company provides some funding to one municipality, the municipality does not think it is adequate to support its nuclear emergency program. In addition, the municipality told us that EMO also does not provide much support or assistance with regard to nuclear emergencies. As a result, it and other municipalities located near out-of-province nuclear facilities are left to fund much of their own emergency preparedness and response activities, even though off-site nuclear emergencies are the Province’s responsibility.”

The recommendation contained in Lysyk’s report states “that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services through the Provincial Emergency Management Office use independent nuclear expertise at all times to assess nuclear risks, plans and response strategies; develop agreements with the Ontario nuclear power companies that state the requirements and deliverables for all parties; develop agreements with the U.S. nuclear power companies that state the requirements and deliverables for all parties; and provide the same level of support and assistance to municipalities regardless of whether a nearby nuclear facility is located inside or outside the province.”

The provinces response states that “(t)he Ministry agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendation, and recognizes the need for independence and clarity in its arrangements with the nuclear power companies, and for the need for all municipalities affected by nuclear facilities to receive the same level of support from the Province. To improve the independence of its nuclear expertise, the Ministry has staffed the Senior Scientist position. The Ministry is in the process of updating the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan, and as part of the development of the site-specific implementing plans will develop agreements with ministries, Ontario and U.S. nuclear power companies, and affected municipalities. These agreements will outline clear deliverables, support, outcomes and performance measures.”

In June, town council passed a motion that called for the province to supply similar levels of public safety and funding that other municipalities in the province with Ontario-based nuclear plants receive as well as having the Ontario government fund the distribution of potassium iodate (KI) pills to where they are needed within Amherstburg as well as those who want them.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace, was at that June meeting along with Theresa McClenaghan from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). Stensil told the RTT last Thursday that the report was validation of the town’s concerns as well as the concerns of Greenpeace.

“This shows the concerns of Amherstburg and Greenpeace are valid and it shows the government isn’t doing its job to protect residents,” said Stensil. “I think when you read between the lines, it’s quite damning.”

There are problems with compliance and with a lack of resources within the ministry, Stensil believed. He hoped the report will “push the province out of its complacency” and get action for local residents. He said that support should be sustainable and not just a “one-off” for Amherstburg.

Stensil also called on residents to press elected officials and staff with the province to ensure more gets done.

“We need to watchdog our own government to make sure it does its job,” said Stensil.