Citizens group calls for assessment in Lafarge proposal to recycle fracking waste

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Plant manager compares level of radiation to that of 'a pickup truck full of bananas'

TRURO - A local citizens group is requesting that a complete environmental assessment be held before approval is granted for a proposal to dispose of treated fracking wastewater being held in Debert.

Lafarge cement plant, Pleasant Valley, N.S.

"There are too many unanswered questions," said Lydia Sorflaten, during a presentation to Colchester County council Thursday night on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Shortts Lake and Colchester County.

The presentation was in regard to a recent application made by the Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield to the Department of Environment (DoE) for approval to recycle fracking wastewater being held in man-made ponds at Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) in Debert.

Lafarge is proposing a pilot test to dispose of 10 million litres of the water by burning it in its cement kiln through exposure to temperatures that range up to 1,300 degrees Celius, at which point it would be evaporated.

But with community questions surrounding the types of chemicals added through the fracking process and the naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) the water contains, Sorflaten said full testing must be done to satisfy residents' concerns.

"This has not been done and it needs to be released to the public," she said. "It is our health."

Sorflaten told council her group believes the Lafarge proposal has potential to result in radioactivity into the atmosphere as well as being deposited into the plant's cement kiln and the cement produced there.

But Lafarge plant manager Scarth MacDonnell, who also made a presentation to council, adamantly disagreed there is any cause for concern by the company's proposal.

"The ultimate question is is it safe?" MacDonnell said.

And, to test the courage of his convictions, MacDonnell produced a clear bottle that he had been drinking from throughout the evening and which he said contained fracking wastewater from AIS that had been treated through a reverse osmosis process.

As a comparison, MacDonnell referred to bananas, which "are loaded with potassium" (a radioactive element).

"So just to put it in perspective," he said, "in the10 million litres of water that we're proposing to process in a test pilot at Lafarge, it has the equivalent radiation of a pickup truck full of bananas. You take a transport trailer down the 102 (Highway), it has 100 times the radiation of this 10 million litres of water that we're looking at."

To further downplay concerns about the recycling proposal, MacDonnell, as the plant manager at Lafarge, described himself as "the guardian" of both the safety of the company's employees and also of the end product produced there.

"I am convinced there is no radioactivity in the water," he said.

In response to a question from council as to why Lafarge wants to involve itself with the fracking wastewater, MacDonnell said it is another way for the plant - which has been recognized for its efforts to improve the environment through recycling activities - can use recycling in a positive way, because every litre of wastewater that would be used, would result in that much less being taken from Shortts Lake to use in cooling the plant's kiln.

"We're really excited about showcasing what we can do," he said.

To further study MacDonnell's proposal, council is planning to offer invitations to AIS, DoE and an independent "accredited" expert to make future presentations on the issue.

Twitter: @tdnharry



Organizations: Lafarge, Atlantic Industrial Services, DoE Colchester County council Concerned Citizens Department of Environment

Geographic location: Shortts Lake, Colchester County, Brookfield Debert

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