Since 2004 Chapais has been vying to set up a $100 million high-tech hog farm on Category III lands but in the wake of a public outcry the town managers are now looking to relocate the project to lands owned exclusively by the municipality.
Town Manager for Chapais, Laurent Levasseur, was happy to announce that the project will now be entering into a new phase with the backing of Polish and Russian partners who are currently developing a company structure. All of the meat produced at the plant will be exported for mainly Russian markets.
Though there has been a great deal of controversy in Quebec over pork production in the last three years with the provincial government handing out subsidies to farms who are barely, if even, making ends meet, Levasseur says that this project will be exempt from this situation.
“The backers have told us, that this is a profitable project and that they have studied all of the technical aspects and their feasibility and they want to go with it,” said Levasseur.
At the same time, Levasseur, who is quite aware of the discontent over the project from both the Crees and many concerned Chapais residents, said that he feels that they have found a better solution to building on the Category III lands that were in the original proposal.
Levasseur said that studies are currently being conducted on a new site that is owned outright by the municipality of Chapais that were previously part of the Opimiska mine. According to him, since these are not lands that are considered traditional hunting territory as those in the original plan, Chapais could proceed with the project provided that it passes the impact assessment from the Ministry of Environment.
In other words, should the project receive an approval certificate from the ministry, Chapais would be able to proceed with the project.
“It is being studied and it is going very well. I think that we will be able to set up the plant here instead,” said Levasseur.
Levasseur and Andre Poulin, the environmental engineer who helped in part to design the “closed circuit” farm and production facility, have also said publicly that with the high-tech equipment, this project would have no impact on the environment.
“All of the waste matter is comprised of organic residues and we would be able to produce energy from it. It is a completely closed system and there would be no waste outside of the plant. No spreading, no odours, there is no internal lagoon, no open systems. It would be completely closed inside of the building,” said Poulin who believes that the only actual impact of the plant would be social.
According to Levasseur, in that the new project is contained, its water source would also be from the town of Chapais and not have any interaction with any of the local waterways.
Not only would this plant theoretically be able to power itself from the energy derived by converting the waste, Poulin said that there would also be no odours produced by the plant, its greenhouse gasses would be minimal and the waste water would processed so that the end result is “very, very clear water.”
But, just because the project sounds good in principal, it does not mean that Chapais locals are on board.
Chapais resident Gulaine Alexandre is infuriated over the project as the town’s infrastructure is already suffering and she feels that more precedence is being given to industry than the tax-paying public.
“We in Chapais are not able to get a proper dumpsite or a decent sewage system for human waste and now we are supposed to be treating pig waste? We don’t even have potable water for I don’t know how many years now, we have to boil our water or buy it bottled,” said Alexandre.
Though Alexandre has no issue with the town of Chapais developing the region, she feels that it is being done on the backs of locals and those in outer-lying regions as hog farming has a wretched history of pollution and water contamination.
According to the Cree Regional Authority, the only documentation that has been submitted for review to the Ministry of Environment consisted of the original proposal and not the second option that Levasseur described. The CRA can only go on what has been presented to them and until such time that the primary proposal is withdrawn and the new one is presented, they are not inclined to comment on information that is unavailable to them.
Though like any agricultural project in the region, any new option for this project would naturally be subject to an environmental review by the ministry. At the same time as this project in theory would be on non-Native land and apparently not affecting wildlife resources outside the limits, should the ministry approve it, according to Levasseur the project may be difficult to stop despite the opposition of the Crees and those in Chapais.