Amherst faces fracking water flak by The Chronicle Herald, November 3, 2014
AMHERST — An open house on Amherst’s plan to dispose of treated hydraulic fracturing water through its waste-water system drew a skeptical crowd Monday evening.
When naturalist and author Harry Thurston stood up to poll the more than 100 people in attendance to find out who was against the plan, the overwhelming majority raised their hands.
One of the lone hands in support belonged to Amherst Mayor Rob Small.
“We haven’t made a decision yet; we are seeking public input,” Small said moments later.
On Thursday, Amherst town council voted in favour of signing a letter of intent to allow Atlantic Industrial Services of Debert to dispose of treated fracking water through its waste-water treatment system on the Tantramar Marshes. The town would stand to make about $500,000 over two years by allowing the company to use its facilities.
The water was treated when a subsidiary of Triangle Petroleum fracked a series of test wells in Hants County in 2007 and 2008. While underground, it picked up amounts of naturally occurring radioactive elements that appear deep underground.
Some 20 million litres now sit in holding ponds near Kennetcook, Hants County, and roughly eight million litres are in Debert.
Atlantic Industrial Services treats the water by forcing it through a series of charcoal and polymer filters before putting it through a reverse osmosis filter. Testing by an independent consultant has shown that it meets Canadian drinking water guidelines.
But the majority of those at the meeting weren’t convinced, despite the presentation of representatives from the consultant, Atlantic Industrial Services and the town.
“I don’t think Amherst should be responsible for cleaning up someone else’s mess,” said Troy McEachern, an Amherst resident who attended the meeting with his wife, Lisa.
“I want to hear what they have to say but there’s not a thing they could tell me that would convince me otherwise.”
While Nova Scotia has a moratorium on fracking and there is legislation in the works to ban it, the fracking water has become an albatross around both the necks of the company that treated it and the provincial government.
The Municipality of the County of Colchester reversed its decision to allow its waste-water system to be used to dispose of the water last year after a huge public outcry.
Thurston said his opposition is against fracking itself and he is concerned that allowing this water to be disposed of in Amherst would result in more in the future.
“This decision opens the door for us to become a dumping ground,” he asserted.
He said water flows out of the Tantramar Marshes into the northern end of the Bay of Fundy, which is “the most important shorebird migratory feeding ground in North America.”
Meanwhile, Ron Patterson, a retired municipal engineer hired by the town as a consultant, was standing in front of two boards displaying a long list of chemicals.
He said that unlike in the United States, Triangle Petroleum revealed to the province all the chemicals it used in its fracking water. [Who has proven that Triangle told the truth?
“There is a lot of misinformation amongst the public,” said Patterson, who helped design the town’s waste-water treatment system.
“Once treated, this water is safe to be disposed of.”
Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter said the way the town went about signing the letter of intent was part of the reason for the broad public backlash.
“The town’s waste-water treatment facility is in the county and we learned about this by reading it in the paper,” said Hunter.
“The public needed more time to be consulted … If this is treated to drinking water standards, then I am fine with the plan. But I want some guarantees that that will be the case.”
Town council will make a final decision on the proposed plan at a Nov. 24 meeting. [Emphasis added]
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