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What to do with the Kennetcook Ponds?

Interview with Nova Scotia Minister of the Environment Randy Delorey

by Miles Howe

Environment Minister Randy Delorey's inheritance includes millions of litres of 6 year old frack waste water. [Photo: nslegislature]
Environment Minister Randy Delorey's inheritance includes millions of litres of 6 year old frack waste water. [Photo: nslegislature]

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) - The newly appointed Liberal government of Nova Scotia has inherited the environmental boondoggle known locally as 'The Kennetcook Ponds'. The ponds, two plastic lined pools containing several millions litres each of fracked 'waste water' stemming back to 2008, remain in something of a disposal limbo due in no small part to the fact that they were found to contain levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMS) above levels allowable for safe transport or disposal.

Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS), the largest-scale waste management facility in the Maritimes, located in Debert, Nova Scotia, also has about 10 million litres of the 'waste water' in its possession.

For six years now – and especially since the ponds were discovered to contain a radioactive substance – the debate over what to do with the ponds has carried on, in particular at the Colchester County municipal level. Recently, AIS has made claims that it has developed a reverse-osmosis process for 'cleaning' the waste water. Independent tests have confirmed that the NORMS have been removed from the water, and that the 'proprietary chemicals' – the patented mix of chemicals sent down a hydraulically fractured well – were appearing in “positive” levels.

There have been, as newly appointed Minister of the Environment Randy Delorey calls them, “false starts”. These included AIS sending over 7 million litres of the waste water to the Windsor Municipal sewer system, prior to the Department discovering that NORMS were present. AIS has also accepted an unknown amount of frack waste water from New Brunswick, raising the ominous spectre of Nova Scotia turning into a frack waste water dumping ground.

Coupled with a currently ongoing hydraulic fracturing review that may well put in jeopardy the moratorium on fracking in the province, and community suspicions are understandably running high.

To their credit, the Liberal government is taking all the right first steps. They have banned importing out-of-province frack waste, pending the review. And Minister Delorey is among the first to admit that there is “no road map” towards rebuilding public trust.

All this to say that the question of what to do with the Kennetcook ponds, and whether AIS has truly developed a means to clean frack waste water, is a lynchpin issue with regards to the future of fracking in the Maritimes.

Without a facility to ostensibly 'clean' the water, whoever would frack the Maritimes risks the even more optically revolting scenario of dumping their waste into the Bay of Fundy, or encouraging cash-strapped municipalities to take the waste on their word that it's safe. AIS and their system will likely either be – or not – that facility.

The Department of Environment, who under the last administration were often less than forthcoming with information, will need to be trusted to be the regulator.

Please enjoy the following interview with Nova Scotia Minister of the Environment, Randy Delorey.

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