So far, Brentwood resident George Kimber (aka Red Clay) said he has garnered between 400 and 500 signatures and he expects those numbers to increase as more people become aware of the enormity of the project.
"I don't think the government realizes how strong the will is of the people to want clean air and clean water," he said. "And the interesting thing is, besides just signatures, I don't think there's any that people haven't written a comment beside it. And some of them are fairly long so that's unusual with most petitions."
Alton Natural Gas is involved in a $100-million project to remove salt from three underground caverns for the purpose of storing natural gas for later use. The salt would then be mixed with fresh water from local waterways to form a brine, which would then be pumped into the Stewiacke and Shubenacadie rivers, which empty into Cobequid Bay, on the upper end of the Minas Basin.
Although Kimber is opposed to the entire project, it would be less unacceptable he said, if the company would at least find a method to recover the salt instead of disposing of it into local waters.
"When there's obvious alternatives, why would you continue down the path that is unproven?" he said. "It's a massive, massive amount of salt."
Kimber said the research he has done indicates the salt to be removed from the three caverns will be the equivalent of 95,000 dump truck loads.
"You are talking a billion dollars worth of salt," he said, adding that he believes there could be a market for it if the company wanted to pursue that avenue.
However, company president David Birkett said that is not a viable option because the process by which the salt is to be removed from the caverns - in part because of the secure structures that have to be created to contain the natural gas - is very different from traditional salt mining.
Birkett said he is not sure how Kimber arrived at his figures regarding the number of truck loads of salt involved, but he said the company has been monitoring the local water system for years while also working closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to ensure all proper steps are being followed. And he said he is convinced the proposed process will not have any negative impact on the water system.
"We've done the work to make sure we have no impact on the river system. We've worked with DFO to ensure that we're going to continue to work with DFO because we have a monitory plan approved that we have to follow," he said.
"We have a good project for Nova Scotia," Birkett said, which he added is designed to both help manage the supply of natural gas and to assist in controlling future price volatility of the resource.
And Birkett said his company is certainly open to addressing issues that are raised about the project.
"If somebody has a legitimate concern or a concern at all, give us a call and we will get back to you and talk," he said.
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