Fracking wastewater in Debert deemed safe for disposal

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TRURO – A study of treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater in Debert states it is safe for disposal.

A provincial study into the wastewater at Atlantic Industrial Services was released at a public meeting in Truro on Thursday night. About 80 people gathered to hear the results, which stated the wastewater meets Health Canada and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines to be released into water.

“The tests … show that the wastewater poses a minimal risk to the health of Nova Scotians and our environment,” said Environment Minister Randy Delorey, adding the tested material was flowback wastewater from 2007 and 2008.

The minister said while the wastewater is safe for disposal, no action will be taken until the department gives final approval. No date was indicated.

Tests were carried out at Becquerel and Saskatchewan Research Council labs for naturally occurring radioactive materials. The waste was also tested for sodium chloride and general chemistry at Maxxam Analytics in Halifax and for proprietary chemicals at Precision Petroleum Labs Inc. in Houston. Precision is the only lab in North America that conducts such tests, said Delorey.

Despite what Delorey said, the response from the crowd was frustration, disbelief and distrust.

Alex McDonald of Shubenacadie said there should be no compromise.

“We do not want any fracking. We do not want your dirty water and we will do everything in our power to stop it,” McDonald said.

Five Islands resident Robert Lattie requested a guarantee in writing that wastewater in the area would not corrupt the water supply.

“Why even consider an experiment with our water? We make our living off that water,” Lattie said.

Debert’s BJ Tan was one of a many people who was not pleased some of the testing was done through a lab in the United States.

“I do not trust anything tested in the U.S … the

health of our children (is) far more valuable. If we have ethics and dignity we should never let U.S. standards” impact Canadian results, Tan said.

Delorey reiterated the American testing site was “the best science we had available to us.”

Shortts Lake resident Lydia Sorflaten said more extensive testing is required.

“Your testing is totally incomplete. We have a problem with cancer in the world, endocrine … and reproductive problems. We will not be happy until we know more,” said Sorflaten.

Other community members wanted to know if Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield will be allowed to accept the wastewater.

“Lafarge is not approved to accept wastewater,” said Kathleen Johnson, an environmental engineer from Pictou County.

“But if the wastewater meets standards for fresh water, Lafarge wouldn’t need industrial approval to receive wastewater,” confirmed Delorey.

Delorey was also asked if he was prepared to ask the government to place a ban on fracking.

“No. The commitment is to let (an) independent committee complete its work without interfering,” he said.

Delorey said he understood people’s frustration but encouraged them to look ahead.

“What is done is done. It’s not about experimenting but looking at the issue and step-by-step trying to find a solution.”

There are about five million litres of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in Debert, and nearly 20 million litres of wastewater, mixed with rain and melted snow, in two ponds in Kennetcook.

Most of the wastewater in Debert has been treated to remove naturally occurring radioactive materials, salt and chemicals.

Test results, which were taken during a period of time and at different water levels, will be posted at

Twitter: tdnMonique

Organizations: Atlantic Industrial Services, Health Canada, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Becquerel and Saskatchewan Research Council Precision Petroleum Labs

Geographic location: Debert, Truro, United States Nova Scotians Halifax Houston North America Shortts Lake Brookfield Pictou County Kennetcook

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Recent comments

  • Still NORM
    February 01, 2014 - 12:11

    "...Most of the wastewater in Debert has been treated to remove naturally occurring radioactive materials, salt and chemicals..." BUT they were NOT clarify yes it was treated to remove NORMS but the first step merely reduced those levels...and the next step even reverse osmosis did not remove the NORMs and only reduced the levels of two of the seven types of radioactive materials while the other five still had the same levels in the water.....PLUS per the Salt issue...there is still sodium and Chlorides remaining, along with traces of other chemicals....HENCE "minimal risk"....but that still says some risk....if we do this ongoing the minimal risk accumulates!

  • Mary
    January 31, 2014 - 10:24

    I think the point is being missed regarding the water. No one said to drink it straight from the holding ponds. It has been filtered etc no different than municipal water being filtered and bottled into drinking water by bottled water companies. How do you know it is clean and does not contain chemicals from agricultural run off? Perhaps people would rather it sit in open holding tanks then look at a possible solution for the waste water.

  • elmer
    January 31, 2014 - 08:14

    if they say the water is safe to drink. 1- who are they? what are their interest in getting rid of this water? I bet is all about profiteer's $$$$. their history with radiation has been proven to be all about the lies and $$$$. they are not to be trusted any longer how many more of our children need to suffer from illness. 2- lets all go out to their ponds of water and watch them scoop up the water and drink it and I don't just mean 1 cup either. 3- better yet " they should just use their frack water for their own drinking water if its that good.