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Increased costs for companies.

Inco Ltd. says regulations imposed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment after the Walkerton crisis will only increase paperwork and costs for the company's Sudbury operations, which have used water for everything from suppressing drill dust to providing. communities withdrinking water for decades.

Carolyn Hunt, Inco's coordinator for environmental effects monitoring, says the company has been working to reduce its consumption of vast quantities of water for many uses while maintaining quality where it matters.

The local mill recycles 100 per cent of roughly 15,000 US gallons of water per minute, and while it is not uncommon for Northern mines to treat water to potability standards, Inco has two comparatively large treatment plants that serve entire communities besides their industrial operations.

The Vermilion Water Treatment Plant, located on Highway 17 just west of Sudbury, supplies the communities of Lively and Copper Cliff with communal water. Meanwhile, Inco's Levack Water Treatment Plant supplies water for the community of Levack and its local operations.

Company officials are currently reviewing submitted design and build tenders for the proposed Totten Mine Water Treatment Plant as part of the mine's development. It is a tender that welcomes any new technology to improve production while, as Hunt says, "guarding our environmental stewardship. We're open for ideas."

Everywhere it seems that environmental stewardship is at the forefront of discussions about water. In a regulatory environment swirling with changes after the Walkerton tragedy, Hunt says Inco questions the need for some the ministry's new regulations.

"We don't have a problem meeting the requirements, but if it's not going to get us further ahead, we question why. We have good water quality."

Considering Inco's scope of operations, the company has to tap into some big resources and budgets to treat drinking water and wastewater. Aside from operating and monitoring water treatment plant operations, Inco monitors and treats waste water with lime, and in some cases certain types of waste water and sludge require additional costly treatment.

Hunt says Inco's Sudbury operations spent $65 million for environment and health projects in 1996 (the latest year for which figures are available), which included water management and decommissioning work. The figure does not include capital projects.

Hunt says Inco has no plans to divest itself of its water treatment plants, but new regulations imposed by the Ministry of the Environment post-Walkerton have added to the company's workload without any apparent benefits.

However, quality is just one factor in the equation. Where Inco determines it is too costly to provide employees with potable water via pipes, they simply ship in bottled water, as is the case with the Frood Stobie Complex.

Inco is not the only company in Northern Ontario that supplies bottled water to its employees and potable water to the mine site or town residents, says Barbara Mossop, manager of engineering and environmental services with the Ontario Mining Association (OMA).

Mossop says she does n6t expect a change in the way those and most other mines operate their waterworks in order to meet the new regulations.

Mines also address water quality and quantity issues through ministry of environment certificates of approval and the Ontario Health and Safety Act, Mossop says.

Mines drawing less than 50,000 litres of water per day are classed with other operations ranging from resorts to small industrial shops and are not subject to the same regulations as are owners and operators of water-Works drawing more than that limit.

Mossop says about ten of the roughly 40 mines in Ontario fall under this category, and the OMA has attended consultation sessions on behalf of its members to track the issue.
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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