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Where Did the Last Big Lot of Frack Wastes AIS Brought to Windsor Come From?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
AIS email to Town of Windsor. See text for explanation. Source: author Freedom of Information request
AIS email to Town of Windsor. See text for explanation. Source: author Freedom of Information request

This blog is meant to be read in association with the story, Return Of the Banned Fracking Wastes

[Excerpted from a previous story on the subject]

Where Did Those 7.3 Million Litres of Wastes Come From?

Questions immediately rained down on Town of Windsor staff, Council and the Mayor. From all the interviews it is clear that the wastes were presented to them as coming from Kennetcook, and this has remained their understanding. Environment did not comment on where the wastes came from. And the AIS managers who had the month before been available for lengthy interviews, suddenly returned no calls from media.

It took months more to pry the Windsor documents out of the Department of Environment. Included in the Freedom of Information release were the AIS monthly reports of the Windsor discharges that began in March 2010.

These monthly volume reports show that the pace of discharges coming into the Windsor plant increased by December 1, 2010 to the allowed limit of one truck load of fracking waste per day. The discharges continued at this pace 7 days a week, for at least 6 months. During this time over 5 million out of the 7.3 million litre total were discharged.

With 90% of that total amount already discharged at Windsor, the Town passed on to AIS an Environment request to know where the discharged wastes were coming from. The company answered on 9 May, inserted into the usual one line monthly report for the April 2011 discharges: AIS said the wastes were coming from the storage ponds in Kennetcook [see photo above]. This confirmed what had always been, and remains, the Town’s understanding.

Triangle Petroleum Says Frack Wastes to Windsor Did NOT Come From Kennetcook

Triangle Petroleum CEO Peter Hill and his management team took over the company and moved it from Calgary to Denver in November 2010… the beginning of that span of time when the monthly discharge reports add up to over 5 million litres, delivered in a truck load every day.

Hill told Media Co-Op editor Miles Howe that during his tenure no wastes left the Kennetcook ponds, until the much documented and discussed transport of the wastes to AIS Debert that began and was aborted in November 2011- well after the last of the wastes discharged into Windsor sewage treatment plant. Hill is unequivocal on that no wastes were taken from the Kennetcook ponds, repeats the point, and the NOFRAC FOIPOP files have substantialdocumented independent corraboration of that.

At this point, we have a clear contradiction between what AIS was telling Windsor ("all from Kennetcook"), and what Triangle is telling the public ("nothing from Kennetcook") -- with Nova Scotia Environment apparently uninterested in which is true.

Interview with Triangle CEO Peter Hill

The NOFRAC Freedom of Information treasure trove contains substantial documentation that independently confirms what Peter Hill said in the interview with Miles Howe: no fracking wastes left the Kennetcook ponds after he took over managing Triangle Petroleum in November 2010, until the aborted transfer of all the wastes to AIS Debert. That November 2011 transfer did not begin until months after the Windsor discharges ended.

There is also the fact of the intense negotiations, described in the article, during the entire period of time where over 5 million litres of wastes are coming into Windsor, and Peter Hill is wrangling with Environment over how to drain the still full Kennetcook ponds.

The Role of Nova Scotia Environment

Documents in the NOFRAC Freedom of Information files show a sharp spike in the Department's concern and activity over the Kennetcook ponds starting in April 2011. Field visits are made to the ponds, and Triangle is pressed much more about its plans for disposal.

The ponds were essentially still full, yet the AIS trucks had been rolling into Windsor daily for some time. Hence the May 9 query to Windsor about where the wastes are coming from.

The verbal answer from the Town that the wastes come from Kennetcook, after the Town asked AIS, was collected by the regular Department field inspector for the Windsor sewage treatment plant, and is passed on to a number of Environment professional staff who handle the Triangle file. [page 34]

We see in the AIS monthly discharge reports that 3 weeks later- May 31, 2011- the discharges into Windsor end, and AIS notifies the Town there will not be any more.

Meanwhile, AIS had been bringing fracking wastes from New Brunswick since 2010.

Some time between May 31 and July 2011 those New Brunswick wastes began arriving at the AIS Debert facility. This was confirmed by Chris O’Connell of Environment, speaking to Belmont resident Heidi Verhuel.

During this time negotiations were intensifying between the Department of Environment and Triangle’s Peter Hill over the draining of the Kennetcook ponds. The company had been holding out a year for permission to re-inject the fracking wastes into one of the wells, and had argued strenuously against trucking out the waste water.

While this discussion was going on, Environment requested and received from the Town of Windsor the accumulated monthly reports which show just how large was the amount of wastes that had gone into Windsor for the months immediately previous: over 5 million litres. 

So we have in a two month period:

  • The wastes that did not come from Kennetcook stop going into the Windsor sewage treatment plant.
  • Shortly after, wastes from New Brunswick start coming into AIS Debert.
  • Department of Environment is well aware that the Kennetcook ponds are essentially full, and demanding of Triangle that they be drained.
  • The Department gathered a lot of information on the discharges into Windsor.

Whatever the benign neglect in months past, we can safely conclude that Environment is no bystander to whatever has transpired. Instead, they seem to have been playing traffic cop for fracking wastes that AIS has brought from New Brunswick.

Recap: AIS Debert, and Processing Fracking Wastes

Apparently Environment decided to ‘overlook’ the rather glaring questions of how AIS had used and potentially abused the department’s approval for discharging the so-called “brine wastes” at Windsor Sewage Treatment Plant.

This still left questions over the status of the AIS Debert facility: Why was it bringing in fracking wastes- first from New Brunswick, and then from Kennetcook?

As we saw above, AIS had in 2008 applied for permission for upgrading construction- specifically meant to process fracking wastes. That Environmental Assessment was approved. This gave AIS the green light for the construction, after which they could undergo testing and apply for the change to their Industrial Approval that would allow the company to process fracking wastes.

AIS did not do any of that.

They instead chose that low cost detour to Windsor sewage treatment plant. Now in 2011, with the always questionable Windsor option removed, Environment appears to have rewarded AIS for its corporate practices by simply allowing it to process fracking wastes at the Debert facility.

Environment spokesperson Lori Errington has repeatedly insisted, contrary to the evidence of the AIS Environmental Assessment, that the company “has always been approved to process fracking wastes.” Errington has also tried to insist that fracking wastes are not waste dangerous goods that AIS is prohibited from processing. But Environment documents show the staff engineer of the project repeatedly saying the opposite. “He didn’t mean to say that,”reports Errington.

Presumably, Environment came up with some ad hoc criteria for processing improvements before letting AIS go ahead. How do these possible or hypothetical processing capability improvements compare with what AIS promised in the Environmental Assessment? More to the point, who is going to make these judgement calls now?

What Comes Next?

Colchester County did more than its job. Our provincial government abdicated setting any standards, and tried to get things "taken care of" out of view. Colchester County stepped back, asked the right questions, and asked for public participation.

This is not a Colchester County problem, or a Hants County problem. What to do with these wastes, and what to do about fracking, is a problem for all Nova Scotians.

The NDP government tells us it will all be taken care of by the Hydraulic Fracturing Review. But the scope of the issues being looked at is far too limited, as is the scope of who is part of the Review. Ministers make broad claims that the Review is about finding out whether fracking can be safe. But the limited number of civil servants involved speak only of looking at "best practices," and are the same people who have managed the process being discussed here.






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