The Sudbury Superstack in Canada

Built for the sole purpose of circumventing clean air laws, I passed this on my trek eastward on the TransCanadian Highway, heading towards Stratford Ontario for the Shakespeare Festival. Costing around $25 million to build, it is the tallest chimmney/smokestack in the western hemisphere, and used to be the tallest in the world, at least untill Kazakhstan built themselves a taller one.

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Now you might ask why would I stop to see a smoke stack? Well, a few days before, as I was driving along talking, via my bluetooth hands-free integrated into the car phone system (yes, I love my new car), one of my oldest friends, an UBER Geek (he’s in his 50’s like me, and when he was in highschool he was programming computer systems for the Pentegon — think WarGames). When I told him the route I was taking he asked if I would be stopping in Sudbury… which as luck would have it I had already planned to do, just as a place to spend the night before the last leg of my trip to Stratford.

He said, “Do me a favor and when you are in Sudbury get me some pictures of their superstack while you’re there. I did a factory tour of the place back when I was in my 20’s, but I never took any pictures of it and I would like some.”

“What’s a superstack” I asked

He proceeded to explain to me how when the governments started to imprement clean air acts in order to address problems like acid rain, that they would measure the air pollution at a certain height above ground; superstacks were one of the ways that heavy polluters would circumvent those rules by essentially disposing of their pollution above that eleveation (see, we’re not poisoning the local air). Built in 1972 by the International Nickel Company (INCO), one of the world’s largest producers of nickel, the superstack was therefore a circumeventing regulations; because, by going higher they were effectively dispersing the massive amounts of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants that their plant produced in the higher altetude wind currents, and away from the local area. This, they claimed, was them “addressing” the health concerns of the locals, and the surrounding farmers who had in recent years found themselves unable to grow anything anymore because their lands had become too acidic to sustain life. Was it successful? Sure… if you only local at local impact studies, but the superstack and things like it were part of the problem that lead to our current catastrophy of global climate change.

Driving towards Sudbury, sure enough this thing was impressivly HUGE; you could not but see it from miles away, spewing dirty filthy nasty G-d knows what into the air… and my motel for the night was just down the road from the base of the thing… oh joy.

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Since companies can no longer play these sorts of regulatory games under the new global rules intended to help curb global warming, and have been forced to actually reduce how much pollution they dump into the atmosphere… there’s talk of bringing the superstack down. Here are some articles I found on the topic:

‘It’s history, like it or not’: the Significance of Sudbury’s Superstack
Sudbury superstack faces uncertain future
Vale clear to tear down Sudbury’s Superstack

Now you might argue that this is could not possibly be a tourist destination, but I beg to differ. TripAdvisor lists it as #14 on its list of the 58 things you could do while visiting Sudbury, Ontario.

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