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
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.