Alta. halts operations at sulphur fertilizer plant

The Alberta government has stepped in to shut down a Calgary-area sulphur fertilizer processing plant, citing a list of environmental violations.

Agrimax Ltd., which operates the Fernz SulFer Works plant at Irricana, about 45 km northeast of the city, was slapped Wednesday with an enforcement order that indefinitely suspends its approval to operate after “ongoing contraventions” of provincial environment law.

The company has had “numerous regulatory issues” since 2003, leading to enforcement orders against it in early 2005 to “compel compliance” with the terms of its operating approval and Water Act license.

Non-compliances, the province said, had included unauthorized releases of industrial waste water, as well as “improper” waste storage.

“Since Agrimax has not come into compliance with its approval or appropriately managed contamination on site, the latest enforcement order will indefinitely suspend its operations,” the province said Wednesday.

The latest order also directs Agrimax to upgrade its sulphur handling facilities and to put a groundwater remediation program and contaminated-soil management program in place.

The company is also ordered to upgrade its industrial runoff pond and to set up an inspection and maintenance program for the plant. The plant must also complete a third-party assessment to ensure its operations wouldn’t put the environment or public health at risk.

Agrimax, which bought the Fernz plant from Nufarm in 2002, won’t be able to resume operations until it complies with all terms of Wednesday’s order, the province said.

Company chairman Claude St-Martin was quoted in Thursday’s Calgary Herald as saying the plant has already been shut down for the past year due to the economic downturn and for other unnamed reasons.

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