Bragg Creek residents take Environment and Sustainable Resources ministry to court

A group of residents in West Bragg Creek have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development ministry. The group claims the ESRD’s practice of burning piles of “waste wood” since January is causing breathing problems and possible health risks.

Waste wood is typically produced when lumber is cleared from an area and large volumes of stripped branches and similar debris is left behind. In 2013 Spray Lake Sawmills began cutting large sections of timber around West Bragg Creek as part of a fire prevention program.

Resident Doug Sephton is named as the suit’s representative plaintiff. He says that until recently the ESRD disposed of waste wood in high-temperature incinerators that produced little smoke. Yet since it switched to open fires smoke pollution in the village half an hour west of Calgary has been significant.

“Night and day you could see these great glowing red orb things on the hillside and in the daytime there were plumes of smoke greater than anything you would expect to see” says Sephton.

ESRD spokesperson Nikki Booth says there are alternative disposal methods but ESRD decided on burning this year. She also says burning only occurs under “optimal conditions” when smoke is least likely to affect residents.