To the editor:

It is an important and fortunate turn of events that have invalidated the vote taken at the UCPR council meeting on January 25. At that meeting the mayors of Alfred-Plantagenet, Casselman, Clarence-Rockland, La Nation, and Russell voted in favour of a zoning change from “rural-agricultural” to “industrial-heavy” thereby allowing for the construction of a cement plant by Colacem Canada.  Much has been written and reported since the earlier meeting and the mayors and councillors now have more facts and opinions at their disposal when they vote again.

The nuisances and inconveniences of the cement plant will of course be the greatest to the citizens in the immediate area, but the pollution it causes will affect a much greater area and bring threats to health, the environment and the economy. The CEO of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit has reported that this area has a higher mortality rate for cancer and heart disease than the urban areas of Ottawa. Scientists have told us that it is not possible to filter out the fine particles that would be emitted from the 410-foot high chimney. The wind patterns blow in all directions but it usually comes from the east during wet weather – this would mean that the highly sulphuric acid would also cover the western part of the region as it falls onto the land and waterways as acid rain.

The Ontario government recently declared the Ottawa River a Heritage site to be preserved and protected from pollution. Providing drinking water year-round for many, the river is also a source of pleasure for swimming, boating and fishing during the summer months. The First Nation people are not voicing their concerns about the effects of the pollution from the cement plant will have on traditional hunting and fishing habitats, and the impact on communities which use the river as their main water source.

We have a number of successful festivals in the area and many businesses claim to have gained new clients due to the tourism traffic. I understand that the Prescott-Russell tourism sector has launched an online marketing campaign in the hopes of adding to the number of visitors to the area but all of this will be in vain if we allow a cement plant to be built and people discover that we are the “pollution capital” of Ontario.

Politicians often disregard the anxieties of the people they represent, but now that the mayors and councillors have been afforded the time to give the Colacem project greater scrutiny it is hoped that they will come to the right decision, show good judgement and vision and reject the rezoning of the land which would be a huge and irreparable mistake. We need to work together to leave Prescott-Russell a legacy to be proud of. We do not need a foreign multi-national corporation and big money to exploit our community and create and environmental disaster in the region.

The meeting in Vankleek Hill on Thursday will be an opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns and opinions.


Patricia Rowlands