‘We don’t want it there’

Pic­tou Land­ing First Na­tion res­i­dents against on­site con­tainer for toxic sludge

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - NEWS - BREN­DAN AHERN

Some Pic­tou Land­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers are up­set with the cur­rent plan for keep­ing toxic sludge dredged from the Boat Har­bour basin in a stor­age con­tainer on-site.

"We're voic­ing our opin­ion that we don't want it there," Tonya Fran­cis of PLFN told a mem­ber of Nova Sco­tia Lands dur­ing an open-house at the PLFN fire hall on Dec. 9.

The re­me­di­a­tion plan, which is cur­rently un­der fed­eral re­view, in­volves seal­ing away all of the con­tam­i­nated sludge into a spe­cially de­signed con­tain­ment cell in Boat Har­bour.

The con­tain­ment cell was built ad­ja­cent to the ef­flu­ent treat­ment fa­cil­ity back in 1991 and has been re­ceiv­ing toxic sludge since 1996. It would be re­fit­ted with new lin­ing and re­fur­bished to re­ceive sludge re­moved from the bot­tom of Boat Har­bour. It's es­ti­mated that be­tween 500,000 and one-mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of sludge will be re­moved.

The same is­sue was raised by com­mu­nity mem­bers at the first open house last sum­mer.

“What's the sense of clean­ing some­thing up if it's go­ing to just go back in there?” War­ren Fran­cis told The News on Aug. 1, 2019.

In the pub­lished com­ments from that same ses­sion, an­other per­son wrote: "Hon­our the clo­sure of Boat Har­bour. Still bad it has to be stored on site (sludge) and mon­i­tored for­ever (not good)."

Fed­eral ap­proval for the re­me­di­a­tion project will only be granted for a com­pleted plan which must in­clude dis­posal of con­tam­i­nated ma­te­ri­als.

If a con­tain­ment cell were built for Boat Har­bour sludge in an­other part of the prov­ince, project lead Ken Swain said trans­porta­tion and reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers would neg­a­tively impact both time­li­ness and the en­vi­ron­ment.

"We would have to trans­port 20,000 tan­dem truck­loads of ma­te­rial on the high­way to some­where else," said Swain in an in­ter­view. "That would be an en­vi­ron­men­tal risk is­sue and could take five to eight years to go through all the mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning, plus pro­vin­cial and fed­eral reg­u­la­tors."

In ad­di­tion to a new liner, Swain said a new leachate de­tec­tion sys­tem will be in­stalled and the con­tain­ment cell's el­e­va­tion would be raised be­fore be­ing capped. After re­me­di­a­tion is com­plete, the cell will still need to be mon­i­tored reg­u­larly.

"It's not a per­fect so­lu­tion," said Swain. "But there is no per­fect so­lu­tion in this case."

A 3D image shown to the 20 or so com­mu­nity mem­bers who were at the meet­ing shows that cell's cap will be cov­ered with turf, and will be sur­rounded by tele­phone poles and a chain-link fence.

For Tonya Fran­cis, this added fix­ture on the land­scape is an un­wel­come re­minder of Boat Har­bour's legacy.

"If they wanted to re­store it (Boat Har­bour) back its orig­i­nal state, then we don't need that as a re­minder."

Artist ren­der­ing shows an over­head view of the con­tain­ment cell seen from the west.

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