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Return Of the Banned Fracking Wastes

Windsor Looks at Taking What Colchester County Refused

by Ken Summers

Lagoon in Debert full of fracking wastes, which Colchester County refused to allow in their sewage system. Windsor sewage treatment plant maybe? [Author photo]
Lagoon in Debert full of fracking wastes, which Colchester County refused to allow in their sewage system. Windsor sewage treatment plant maybe? [Author photo]

The County of Colchester in May overturned its earlier approval for Atlantic Industrial Services to release processed hydraulic fracturing wastes into the municipal sewer system.  After the Council opened the process to numerous presentations from citizens, the committee of Council charged with the decision decided that it did not want the Bay of Fundy to be a petri dish for fracking wastewater." 

Further down the Bay of Fundy, the Town of Windsor is considering accepting the same wastes for its sewage treatment. Chief Administrative Officer Luis Coutinho offered the acceptance of the fracking wastes as a potential new source of revenue.  In the interview the CAO makes clear that there will be a public process if this is proposed. Discussion of what is called “brine water” was on the June 25 Council agenda, but there was only a brief tabling of the Out of Control NOFRAC report on the experience with fracking in Hants County.

In its decision the Colchester County Sewer Use Committee summarized that “there is insufficient information to satisfy itself that the ingredients used in the fracking wastewater and the methods used in the fracturing process pose no health, safety or environmental hazard.” In the two page decision they emphasize the inadequacies of the province’s regulatory framework and the lack of support for municipalities that must make decisions. The Ecology Action Centre appeal to the committee, one of many they received, makes specific and detailed reference to toxic chemicals used in the fracking but not tested for.

The Town of Windsor accepted for discharge by AIS into its sewage treatment plant 7.3 million litres of untreated fracking wastes in 2010 and 2011. [see also] At the time that Windsor accepted those wastes, there was little public awareness or knowledge about the issue, and Council members thought it was essentially especially salty water, as it was presented to them by AIS. In light of the well documented Colchester refusal to allow the discharge of the fracking wastes, it is unclear what Town staff have in mind.

Neither has there been any indication from the Town what they make of the track record to date of Atlantic Industrial Services with it’s proposal and later performance around the 2010 – 2011 discharges of untreated fracking wastes into the Windsor Sewage Treatment plant. In the 2009 proposal process the wastes were presented as coming from 2008 hydraulic fracturing in Hants County. Part of the consideration in that process was based on analysis, albeit rudimentary and insufficient, of those wastes in particular... that led to them being presented as “brine wastes,” and nothing at all being said about chemical compounds, present or not.

By May 2011 one truck a day, seven days a week, had discharged most of the untreated fracking wastes into the Windsor sewage treatment plant. Notwithstanding that the wastes had always been presented as coming from Hants County, the Town asked for confirmation where the wastes had been coming from. In an email, AIS replied that the wastes had come from Hants County. But the wastes did not come from the Triangle Petroleum waste ponds in Kennetcook,  and during the period of time in question AIS had been bringing that amount of fracking wastes from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.... wastes for which no analysis was required by any regulator, and probably none was done.

In any proposal by a company to a municipality many statements will be made and assurances offered. So it would seem that in the coming weeks the track record of Atlantic Industrial Services will be among the many questions considered by citizens and officials alike of the Town of Windsor.

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