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Nova Scotia Government with Frack Waste Broker Atlantic Industrial Services: Regulator or Handmaiden?

by Ken Summers

Cover picture for the new Nova Scotia Environment Facebook page. The old one was a repository for a substantial amount of content inconvenient to the Department. It was replaced due to "technical difficulties."
Cover picture for the new Nova Scotia Environment Facebook page. The old one was a repository for a substantial amount of content inconvenient to the Department. It was replaced due to "technical difficulties."

One of the most persistent questions that NOFRAC has raised is what happened to the missing 4 million litres of fracking wastewater for which there is documentation that approximately 3 million of it was transported out of one of the Kennetcook storage ponds in June 2008. But there is no documentation of who transported it or where it went.

When questioned about this Nova Scotia Environment officials would go no further than “companies are required to dispose of the wastes at an approved facility, but are not required to report to them;” and that the Department having determined that there was no risk in the wastes, did not need to enquire whether there was compliance.

NOFRAC released its Out of Control report on the experience of fracking in Hants County in October 2012. One theme touched on at the report launch in Kennetcook was how NOFRAC had to extract all the information it had from less than forthcoming companies and government regulators. Triangle Petroleum's CEO Peter Hill made a commitment at that community meeting to personally answer all questions put to the company.

Following the formal part of the community meeting, Peter Hill was asked where those June 2008 wastes had gone. He responded that Atlantic Industrial Services had taken them for processing to it's facility in Debert. Hearing questions about whether that could be the case, the Triangle executive said he would have to check the records when he returned to the company offices in Denver.

Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) has been much in the news for the last year on the subject of fracking wastewater disposal. This was capped by the May refusal of Colchester County for permission to discharge fracking wastes into the sewer system. Since that time, AIS has with the assistance of Nova Scotia Environment been looking for another municipality to take the now 10 million litres of wastes stranded at the Debert facility.

The question about whether AIS could have taken wastes to Debert in 2008 were based in the fact that the company was at that time putting the finishing touches on it's environmental assessment for an expansion and upgrade that would if approved and built allow it to process fracking wastes.

The Environmental Assesment was submitted in November 2008. Key passages pertaining to the processing of fracking wastes can be seen here. They include explicit statements that fracking wastes are classified as waste dangerous goods, which AIS was then, and still is, not allowed to process according to it's operating Industrial Approval from Nova Scotia Environment.

This classification of fracking wastes as waste dangerous goods is the regulatory practice across Canada. And despite the Environment Department more recently making Nova Scotia a de facto exception, NSE staff had previously referred to fracking wastes as waste dangerous goods.

Why would a company that it is applying for a substantial expansion that would allow it to process fracking wastes, already be taking fracking wastes for processing at the Debert facility?

But indeed, Triangle execuctive recently confirmed that the Kennetcook storage pond wastes taken from there in June 2008 were "put through the Debert lagoons of AIS. These brines were mixed and blended with other product, analyzed, found to be within the required specification and finally passed for discharge."

Atlantic Industrial Services officials were asked to confirm this, and did not reply to communications.

When first asked about those missing wastes, Nova Scotia Environment was asked whether the department knew where the unaccounted wastes had been transported to. The November 2012 reply did not answer the question, instead explaining why the Department did not need to know. The new information from Triangle Petroleum about where the wastes went was relayed to the Department spokesperson, who was asked again if the Department of Environment knew where the wastes had gone.

Over the course of making sure spokesperson Lori Errington fully understood this was a question solely about whether the Department knew where the wastes had gone, and her checking with the Department staff responsible, she repeatedly declined to answer. Errington also stated that this was not a refusal to answer the question.

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