TRURO - A proposal by a Brookfield cement plant to participate in a pilot project involving the disposal of frack wastewater is generating concern for Colchester County council.
The Lafarge cement plant in Brookfield is proposing to dispose of some fracking wastewater currently stored in Debert by evaporating it at extremely high temperatures in its kiln. HARRY SULLIVAN – TRURO DAILY NEWS
As a result, the municipality is planning to send a letter of concern to Lafarge (the company in question), the minister of Environment and the local Department of Environment office (DoE).
“I’m not sure if the public knows what this treated wastewater is,” Coun. Geoff Stewart said, in raising the matter for discussion during council’s meeting on Thursday night.
“I don’t think they are recycling it, I think they are using it for cooling.”
Stewart’s comments were in reference to a full-page advertisement taken out by Lafarge that was published in a recent Truro Daily News.
“We’re planning to make an application to Nova Scotia Environment for a test pilot approval to recycle treated wastewater for use in a rotary cement kiln,” the company said as part of the ad’s message. “The application process is rigorous and thorough. It will be carefully reviewed by the agencies entrusted with protecting our environment.”
What the ad does not say, however, is that the “treated wastewater” is fracking waste being held in containment lagoons at Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) in Debert.
Coun. Doug MacInnes said he spoke to Scarth MacDonnell, the plant manager at Lafarge, about the ad but came away with concerns at what he heard.
“He explained to me that it was worded that way so that it wouldn’t get the public upset,” the councillor said.
And while MacInnes said MacDonnell told him anyone who called to enquire would be provided with more clear information about what is being proposed, he and other councillors nonetheless expressed concern about the way the matter is being handled.
While MacInnes said he wants to keep “an open mind” about the possibility of safely disposing of the frack water “because somewhere down the road the waste has to go somewhere,” he said, expressing concern that the company is being less than forthcoming in the early stages of the process.
“I bluntly said to him that I think you are starting off on the wrong foot,” MacInnes said. “I think it’s very misleading, I really do.”
Deputy Mayor Bill Masters agreed.
“I think the council should go to the Department of Environment and say this does not even come close to letting the residents know what is happening in their backyard,” Masters said, of the ad’s language.
“I’m still concerned that the residents out there are not aware or informed of what is going on.”
Last summer, council rewrote its sewage use bylaw and rejected an application by AIS to dispose of treated frack waste through the municipal sewer system because of potential dangers to the environment.
At that time, council and some residents alike expressed concern about the way the issue has been handled, including the fact that the DoE permitted AIS to truck the waste into the county from East Hants without informing the municipality of the move.
When contacted by the Truro Daily News for comment, however, MacDonnell said he felt his comments to MacInnes had been taken out of context.
MacDonnell said MacInnes inquired as to why the company had not used the word
“fracking” in the ad’ s headline and “I responded with, ‘I think there is a negative connotation with fracking.’
“We’re not in the fracking business,” MacDonnell said, adding that neither is the company supporting or condoning the act of fracking.
“We wanted to make sure that people understood that we were putting ourselves forward as a potential solution provider to this issue of this flowback fluid that people have been dealing with for a couple of years,” he said.
“We are going to treat the water in a kiln that takes material up to 1,300 degrees Celius. Complete destruction. If there are any heavy materials or heavy particles they will become sintered in the limestone clinker.”
MacDonnell said when the issue around the disposal of the frack water came to light, his company put its name forth as a way to see if there is something it can do to provide an environmentally friendly way to get rid of it.
“All of the smart people who have been working on this for some time have not been able to find an acceptable solution. So this is about as good as you are going to get and
it’s a low-cost solution,” he said.
“If we were trying to hide anything we would not be putting a full page ad into the Truro Daily News.”
And MacDonnell said the company is working on a FAQ section on its website to better explain the process the company would like to use if it receives DoE approval.
“We want to start discussion,” he said. “We want to be completely transparent.”