Amherst fracking protestors take to town hall steps
AMHERST - It’s become a popular, colloquial expression and in downtown Amherst the message was loud and clear - “no fracking way.”
A peaceful protest against the Town of Amherst accepting 30 million gallons of treated fracking waste water and disposing of it through it sewage treatment plant started with a modest group of fifty protestors on Friday but grew as the hour approached noon. Their reasons for opposing the proposal put forward by Atlantic Industrial Services were many, but all were united by the issue.
“There are too many unanswered questions,” Paul ‘Skippy’ Farrow said. “Ten years later are we going to find something was wrong. We dumped chemicals for years in our backyard and were wrong. If we take it now, we’re becoming a dumping ground for toxic industrial waste.”
Farrow help organize the protest in equally short of time it became known Amherst, along with the City of Dieppe, have been asked to take on the treated wastewater in return for half-amillion dollars. Amherst signed a letter of intent to take on the wastewater, but won’t making a decision until the next regularly council meeting on Nov. 24. Council was asked to make a decision Nov. 10, but that was deferred and a second public meeting is expected before the meeting on the 24th.
It’s not just the Amherst public that is expressing a stake in the outcome if Amherst choses to proceed with the proposal. From Cumberland County’s north shore, Richard Plett attended the protest - his first public protest - to express his concerns saying yes to accepting the wastewater is saying yes to a controversial energy sector.
“[It’s] opening the door to unconventional oil and gas development, which is what they are doing really,” Plett said. “What I’m here for is a frack-free zone.”
His sentiments were shared by local author and poet Harry Thurston, who holds a degree in biology from the University of Acadia. Nature plays a significant roll in his work - he’s written an entire book on the tidal rivers and salt marsh in his backyard - and saying yes to byproducts is saying yes to the fracking industry.
“By accepting this wastewater gives approval to the whole fracking industry,” Thurston said. “It’s the bottom of the barrel in energy production and I feel this has been a deeply flawed political process. It’s not business as usual and its been a very unusual development.”
Stranger still would be the sight of trucks driving back and forth over the marshes to deliver the wastewater if approved, Amherst resident Janet Dale said. Dale, too, is at odds with the fracking industry.
“If our town council takes this money it will not be just one time as indicated by the Town’s proposed agreement of intent, “Dale said. “It will be for 730 days. 730 days of trucks going back and forth between the collection ponds will be urged to help cram it with non-perishable food items and coats.
Wood said he’s looking for gently used winter coats that can be donated in support of the Coats for Cumberland campaign while food that’s collected will be provided to the Amherst Food Assistance Network.
On Nov. 13, the cruiser will be at Spring Street Academy from 8 to 9 a.m. and ARHS from 11 a.m. to noon.
It will be at West Highlands Elementary from 1 to 2 p.m., E.B. Chandler from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. and at the Sobeys parking lot from 5 to 8 p.m.
On Nov. 14, the cruiser will be at the Walmart parking lot from 5 to 8 p.m.
While it wasn’t part of the program last year, Wood said ARHS asked to participate this year while both Sobeys and Walmart are back as well.
“Last year we collected a lot of groceries at Sobeys and Sobeys does have food bags prepared that people can buy for the food bank,” Wood said. “We got a lot of clothing at Walmart. One woman literally gave us the jacket off her back.”
Colleen Dowe of Empowering Beyond Barriers is hoping people will help cram the cruis- and our marsh... I don’t give a fig how clean this water is; if you can bathe in it, shave your legs with it, wash the car with it. It’s as theoretically dirty today as the day it came out of the frack.” er again this year.
“There remains a huge need in the community for something as simple as winter jackets and outerwear, especially snow pants for children,” Dowe said. “There’s a huge need for youth sizes eight to 16 and for women’s and men’s extra large and 2XL jackets.”
Coats for Cumberland has kicked off its sixth season with drop-off locations at Sobeys in the Amherst Centre Mall as well as at Atlantic Kia, Jim Hatheway Ford, Maggie’s Place, Amherst Home Hardware and at CANSA.
Other drop-off locations will be established elsewhere in the county, including the NSCC Cumberland Campus in Springhill.
On Nov. 21, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the clothing that’s collected will distributed at the Amherst Centre Mall, while other distribution locations across the county will be announced later.
Last year, more than 700 items of clothing were distributed across Cumberland County with 317 being distributed at the mall alone. Sixty coats were given to the Amherst food bank for distribution.
Paul ‘Skippy' Farrow (right) was on the front line leading a growing group of protestors against the Town of Amherst's letter of intent to accept treated fracking wastewater from Atlantic Industrial Services's holding ponds in Debert.