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Disposal of fracking waste water begins at Lafarge Cement Plant in Brookfield

Residents question regulator's testing requirements

by Ken Summers

Disposal of fracking waste water begins at Lafarge Cement Plant in Brookfield

Lafarge Cement in Brookfield has begun processing waste water that originated in the waste ponds of two exploratory gas wells fracked 6 years ago in Kennetcook.

The waste water being evaporated in the Lefarge cement kiln has been treated to remove radioactivity, and through a reverse osmosis process to remove other substances. In community meetings Minister of Environment Randy Delorey and departmental staff have stressed that after the treatments by Atlantic Industrial Services the waste waters meet national standards for drinking water and for release into aquatic environments.

The guidelines for allowable levels of radioactivity come from Health Canada. The guidelines for all other toxins are constantly reviewed and updated by the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers [CCME].

Health Canada's guidelines for naturally occurring radioactive materials [NORM] are decades old and do not take into account extensive research into the complex cumulative effects of introducing steadily greater amounts of NORMs taken from deep in the earth where they did not effect us, or the environment around us.

In the community meetings Minister Delorey has had a great deal to say in standing by the CCME guidelines that were used for testing the treated fracking waste waters. About the Health Canada guidelines for NORM he has said simply that they are the standards we have.

When the treated fracking waste waters are injected into the cement kiln, some of the substances in the water are destroyed by the heat. But many substances- especially the heavy metals and the radioactivity bearing sediments- are not destroyed. So these substances are actually concentrated by the cement kiln evaporation.

Minister Delorey and the department have when questioned repeatedly based their approval on what is going into the diposal process: “the twice treated and tested waters”. Questions about testing the outcomes of using the cement kiln for disposal have been deflected or outright rejected.

Lafarge has volunteered to test the exhaust stack. Plant area resident Fred Blois mused that “Lafarge was certainly quick to agree to test about the air emissions that concerned some of the people at the community meeting where Minister Delorey announced he was approving the Lafarge pilot project.”

But Blois explained how he and members of the Shortts Lake Residents Association who live even closer to the cement plant have been stonewalled for years about the millions of tons of waste cement kiln dust sitting in tailing piles exposed to leaching by rain and snow. Residents feel that it is Lafrage that gets the protection of the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.

Evaporation or Incineration Concentrates Substances in the Fracking Wastes

However 'safe', or at least benign, that it can be argued the fracking waste waters have become after the treatments by Atlantic Industrial Services, the disposal method that Minister Delorey has approved is not releasing the wastes into the environment in that form.

Minister Delorey has chosen to approve a method of disposal by evaporation in the heat of the Lafarge cement kiln that is meant to approximate disposal by incineration in plants designed for oil and gas drilling waste disposal.

Fluidized bed incinerators in western Canada reach far higher temperatures than those achieved in the aging Brookfield cement kiln, and they force the toxic substances through a number of combustion processes. Even then, most of the heavy metals and radioactive materials end up in the ash, which is treated and disposed of as a hazardous waste.

In the case of the band aid cement kiln evaporation process approved by Minister Delorey, those same toxic substances end up either in the 'clinker' that becomes the cement, or in the cement kiln dust that as Fred Blois pointed out, becomes the means for introducing all those toxins into the environment.

When questioned about testing for the solid materials, Department of Environment spokespersons have said that the cement clinker will be tested in a manner that has not yet been specified. But they have flatly refused to discuss why that is considered sufficient, and there is to be no required testing of the cement kiln dust.


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