‘We don’t want it there’
Pictou Landing First Nation residents against onsite container for toxic sludge
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.