MONTREAL-Two cement manufacturers in Quebec will begin burning the province's scrap tires, but environmentalists have raised concerns about the plan's safety.
``(Officials) are so gun-shy of having a tire fire in Quebec that they are willing to literally have uncontrolled, state-run pollution happening,'' said Daniel Green, an environmental scientist and adviser for Sierra Club Canada.
Quebec Environment Minister Andre Boisclair signed contracts in August with two large cement makers to accept 7.5 million scrap tires from the province over the next three years.
Under the deals, which are worth about $5.2 million, the province will pay the companies about $25 to $30 per metric ton to accept the tires.
The department hopes to sign another $9 million in contracts next year.
Boisclair wants to empty Quebec's 47 tire dumps, containing about 25 million tires, by 2008.
Lafarge Canada Inc. and St. Lawrence Cement Group will burn the scrap tires as fuel in their retrofitted cement kilns.
``Every tire that is burned is a relief to the ulcers of these environmental inspectors that dread the day the beeper will ring at three o'clock in the morning saying one of the sites is on fire,'' Green said.
He has publicly called for independent tests to determine the environmental impact of burning tires in the kilns. Environmentalists aren't convinced the emissions from burning tires are safe.
Boisclair contends that burning tires as fuel for cement kilns will not increase air pollution. The tires burn at such high temperatures that they release almost no emissions, he said.
Quebec will not require additional testing of the emissions because current yearly tests are enough, Boisclair said.
But the department has put itself in a difficult position because it is supplying an industry it is supposed to monitor, Green said.
Green said Quebec's Minister of Environment should contract with a university to assess the situation.