Chronicles

Orimulsion

        About a year ago, this newspaper ran an article about the ongoing problems being experienced by the thermal generating plant in Dalhousie. These problems were with the poor quality of the plume being emitted from the stack and specifically with the emission of sulfer trioxide (SO3), which caused the plume to turn into rather interesting shades of brown and purple as it left the immediate vicinity of the stack. As I remember it, the writer of that article had interviewed local NB Power officials about the problem. The writer recognized that there had been something of a local public outcry over the problem, that complaints had been made to the Department of the Environment and, I guess, that I had written several rather uncomplimentary columns in the weeks preceding the article itself.


Notice the brown "Plume" ?

        NB Power spokespersons acknowledged that, indeed, there had been some complaints over the emissions and that, although they believed this problem to be largely "cosmetic" (their word), they were doing everything they could to address it. Specifically, they assured the writer - and any readers of the article - that the plant was going to be shut down for maintenance and during that time, new, "cutting edge" technology was to be installed which would deal with the problem once and for all. i believed them, because I was convinced that they believed themselves.

        That was a year ago. For the life of me, I can see no improvement in the quality of the plume coming form the plant this spring. I can only conclude that the new technology doesn't work.I wonder how those same officials feel these days about what seems like like a great idea at the time but which has proven to be merely another very expensive wish.

        Now, I have to confess that I am getting rather tired of this whole issue, especially because I recognize that there is very little likelihood that the Dalhousie plant will undergo yet another conversion, especially while the twenty year contract with Bitor (the company which supplies Orimulsion) has still about twelve years to run. Continuing to fight the fight seems a bit like ramming one's head into a cement wall, especially when one has to deal with utility officials whose only mandate is to turn a profit and with various government agencies who persist in abrogating their responsibility to their electorate in order to continue to placate the true decision makers in our society, in this case, the utility itself and its customers south of our border.

        But now, NB Power is pushing hard to have the government agree to convert Colson Cove, outside Saint John, to Orimulsion. Among their arguments in favour of using this fuel, they cite this same cutting edge technology as their chief weapon in controlling emissions. I don't know whether they think that no one in the south of the province knows what is going on up here (for all that they may be right!) or that no one cares. However, there is an effort on the part of concerned citizens and environmental groups in the Saint John and Lorneville area to inform the populace - and some of us from here have been asked to provide our own opinions and anecdotes on Orimulsion. At the very least, those people down there who bother to inform themselves are going to know that everything is not just fine up here, that not all the citizens of the North Shore are as indifferent or as quiescent as these decision makers may wish us to be.

        We may be stuck with Orimulsion yet, but if so, I will take some small personal satisfaction in doing what I can to see that we retain the dubious distinction of being the only jurisdiction in North America which is so "blessed".

        This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column. It is reproduced with Mike's permission.

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