Brookfield Notes, By Judy Matheson
Lafarge recognized as leader in environmentally-responsible practices
Lafarge came to Pleasant Valley/Brookfield in 1964, known at that time as Canada Cement. MacDonald Construction was the Contractor hired to build the plant. A large number of employees worked on construction and some of them continued with the cement company upon start up.
Canada Cement was a godsend to many in the South Colchester area. The community at large has benefited from this corporation with quality jobs (with benefits and pensions), not only for regular workers, but also providing summer work for students.
The plant officially opened in September 1965 with 110 employees. The 50th anniversary is in the planning stage for Sep. 22, 2015.
The plant should be congratulated for the capable management it has provided over the past years. Upon opening, it was led by the personable and highly regarded Don Courtney. Other managers that followed his successful leadership included: Don King, Grant Langford, Alan Kreisburg, Ron Braun, Jim Cross, James Kirkpatrick and presently Scarth MacDonnell.
The management has shown considerable interest in community endeavours through various sponsorships, including Terry Fox runs, numerous sports teams, cultural events, the Brookfield Athletic Association, the Brookfield Men’s Club, Coming Home to Brookfield and the United Way, to name a few.
Lafarge is an international company with plants in 50 countries around the world, all producing quality cement. The company is also regarded as a responsible environmentalist.
The safety record at the Pleasant Valley operation stands at 1,560 days without a lost time accident, a record that has been conscientiously accomplished and one to be admired.
The local plant provided all the cement for the Confederation Bridge in 1997/98 and for the Sydney Tars Ponds in 2010/11.
Lafarge has always been aware of community and environmental concerns. During manager Grant Langford’s tenure from 1986 to 1994, the Community Liaison Committee (CLC) was formed, as well as numerous meetings held, to keep the public informed of ongoing research.
At that time the burning of hazardous waste was a contentious topic. All the pertinent tests and environmental assessments were followed before proceeding.
In the early 2000s the possibility of burning tires in the kiln drew considerable public opposition, although there were benefits to this for the plant and the environment. Due to the tenacity of the citizen group, the environment minister of the day, Mark Parent, ruled against burning tires and the company moved on.
Currently, the plant suggested the Brookfield cement kiln to the Nova Scotia Environment Department as a viable means to dispose of fracking water after the county council decision hit the headlines disallowing the treated water to be flushed through the county sewers.
A concerned citizens group is watching the test results carefully to ensure the process is in the best interest of the area. Jim Harpell is a member of that group and speaking on his own behalf says he’s open to a positive outcome of an independent study, if the facts prove it’s a safe process.
One of Harpell’s concerns is the age of the plant make it in some ways not be as safe for the procedure as a new plant might be.
The latest manager, MacDonnell, has an open door policy and would like to address these questions or concerns with individuals from the public. He wants to show the positives of this service and, to that effect, has made his number available.
He also made a presentation to county council and will hold community liaison meetings and public meetings where necessary. The CLC generally meets four times through the year or when necessary to keep the community informed of updates on procedures.
This past year Lafarge was honoured as a recipient of the Mobius Award for Environmental Excellent from the Resource Recovery Fund Board. The plant was named large business of the year for making Nova Scotia a leader in waste reduction. Lafarge, as a leader in the construction industry, has an impressive record for diverting waste from landfills.
The county council realizes taxes of $500,000 per year from Lafarge. The area and province benefit from economic residue of between $50 and $60 million per year. Payroll for the 70 employees comes in at more than $5 million each year. All these economic spin-offs have improved the quality of life in the Colchester area.
Many of the employees that work at Lafarge have had the option and privilege of early retirement after 30 years of service. Among the locals now retired are: Ronnie Crossman, Mike Watson, Gab Matheson, Mark Fleming, Brian Clarke, Geoff Stewart, Dave Peterson, Terry Stewart, Wayne Johnson and Steve Taylor.
Taylor retired last June after 32 years doing several different jobs at the plant. He saw many changes over his time there and was happy to have worked close to home. He made a terrific contribution to the Terry Fox Run, through soliciting the employees and raising awareness of the charity.
Lori Nielsen has 34 years in at the plant, making her the go-to person on many questions. Brad Sutherland, Chad Sutherland, Lesley Graham, Bruce Nelson, Mike and Adam Searle, Dave Stevenson, Tim Wynn, Larry Fisher, Dennis McCallum, Rod and Lori Nielsen, Wade Densmore are just a few of the other present day employees.
Brad Sutherland has been with Lafarge for 12 years and he says it’s definitely a great place to work, a good career for him and he has been treated well. It has been good for the community, providing jobs close to home. Brad is hopeful the life of the plant will continue for many years.
The estimated future life of the plant in Pleasant Valley/Brookfield is 25 years. That would be a dream come true for this area, especially in light of the current economic climate.
Judy Matheson is a life-long Brookfield resident and dedicated volunteer with many community organizations. To have your community news appear in her column contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.