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Triangle Petroleum CEO drinks fracking waste water!

Company promises it can treat water, but Kennetcook, NS, residents still say 'Frack off.'

by Miles Howe

5 million ways to kill a CEO? Peter Hill takes a long draught from a tall glass of 'treated' frack waste water, while Environment minister Randy Delorey looks on. [Photo: Miles Howe]
5 million ways to kill a CEO? Peter Hill takes a long draught from a tall glass of 'treated' frack waste water, while Environment minister Randy Delorey looks on. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Kennetcook, Nova Scotia – About 80 local residents of the Kennetcook, Nova Scotia, area packed the Kennetcook Fire Hall on March 5th to hear newly-appointed Minister of the Environment, Randy Delorey, attempt to explain the latest leaks of the now infamous 'Kennetcook ponds'. The ponds, which since 2008 have held millions of litres of fracked waste water, once again were found to be leaking their contents into adjacent streams and wetlands in January of 2014. This, despite the fact that the ponds have been capped since November of 2013.

Delorey and his two-person staff were quick to explain that the newest 'discharge' was due to an unusually wintery winter, with snow, rain, freezing rain and flash freezes causing the pond caps to tear and spill between 6,000 and 14,000 litres of their radioactive contents into the surrounding environs. But the community, with the minister in their midst and the floor open for questions, had more on their minds than the leaking radioactive waste water that was yet again potentially polluting their watershed.

Kennetcook is Nova Scotia's ground zero in the initial bungled attempt by Triangle Petroleum to hydraulically fracture the province in search of shale gas deposits. Of Triangle's three attempted test wells, one hydraulically fractured well revealed nothing while two hit a saline water deposit, sending millions of litres of water back up to the surface before the wells were capped.

“How many people in this county is it going to take to say 'We don't want to frack?'” asked one local resident.

“It doesn't work that way,” responded minister Delorey, referring time and again throughout the evening to the ongoing 'Wheeler review' - the so-called independent review that will weigh heavy in the provincial government's decision on how to proceed with the current moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia.

When pressed for comments on hydraulic fracturing, Delorey continually deferred to the Wheeler review and the press ban that exists on the panelists participating in its conception. The review is due to be delivered in June of 2014.

The crowd also had numerous questions related to how to finally be rid of the Kennetcook ponds. Treating and disposing of the fracked waste water, which has been found to contain levels of Naturally Occuring Radioactive Materials (NORMs), has been an extremely mismanaged and murky process.

At one point it was revealed that over 7 million litres of the waste water had been shipped to the nearby Windsor municipal sewer system – all this before the provincial department of Environment discovered that the waters were radioactive. Residents at the meeting also complained of finding dead animals surrounding the ponds, dead fish floating in streams and a security system so infantile that a “child could climb over the fence” that now surrounds the supposedly 'quarantined' radioactive waters.

Millions of litres of the waste water is also currently being held in storage 'lagoons' by Atlantic Industrial Services, headquartered in nearby Debert. This makes an actual count of how much waste water actually exists – and how much waste water has already been disposed of – almost an effort in futility.

Delorey, to be sure, has inherited this issue as part of the ministerial portfolio, and was quick to point out the newness of his appointment and the honour he felt towards the job. To his credit, Delorey has been far more accessible and available to both media and constituents than his predecessor, Sterling Beliveau.

But the naivete and youthful exuberance angle only goes so far, and residents were quick to point out to Delorey that the job ahead of him – and the expectations of the community – are substantial.

“Wayne Gretzky has a legacy. You have a seven year problem. Yusain Bolt had false starts. You've made real mistakes with a real issue. So watch your language,” said another resident to Delorey, in reference to the bureaucratic terms that the provincial Environment staff used to describe the very real and potentially dangerous mistakes their department had already made in regards to the fracked waste water.

If Delorey played the 'new and young' card to his advantage during the meeting, it was the presence of Peter Hill, CEO of Triangle Petroleum – and still responsible for disposing of the waste water – that brought the fire hall meeting to an odd, carnivalesque, crescendo.

Hill, still interested in hydraulically fracturing the Kennetcook area and beyond, came armed with props and platitudes in his attempts to convince the assembled crowd that the waste water wasn't really that radioactive, and that Atlantic Industrial Services would be able to clean the waste water.

Hill, using a banana as a reference point for the radioactivity that permeates everyday existence, told the crowd that: “We're all radioactive. It's a fact of life.”

After explaining to the crowd that “We all drive cars. There is a price to pay for our lifestyle,” Hill proceeded to drink a mason jar of water that he and the department of Environment acknowledged was 'treated' frack waste water.

Questions do remain as to the veracity of the testing process that now declares treated water samples to be of freshwater quality. The test samples were gathered from the Kennetcook ponds by Dillon Consulting, on behalf of Hill and Triangle Petroleum. No one from Nova Scotia Environment was present at the point of gathering the samples.

The samples themselves were then sent to Houston, to be tested by Precision Petroleum, who, according to representatives from Nova Scotia Environment, are amongst the only laboratories in the world capable of testing samples for the patented 'proprietary chemicals' that make up the mixture that is mixed with water and then injected into wells during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Hill himself acknowledged that even if the fracked waters could be treated and returned to drinkable quality, only “20 percent” of the proprietary chemicals ever return up the hydraulically fractured well.

This, when considered with the fact that Hill's plans call for hundreds of fracked wells in the area, suggest a future ground-scape rife with shale fissures, proprietary chemicals, and a soil consistency known already to contain Naturally Occuring Radioactive Materials.

“Let's dispose of this waste water in the Halifax watershed,” said another resident in allusion to the off-the-beaten-track nature of the Kennetcook area. “Then we'll see feedback.”

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