I have been following the controversy over the proposal to install the
hazardous waste incinerator in Belledune with considerable interest,
although I have not taken an active part in the debate. It seems safe to
say that no project since the proposal, back in the 1970's, to build a
nuclear reactor on Heron Island, has stirred up such a controversy.
I have not read any of the material prepared by the company or by
anyone else that discusses the safety of the methods by which this
hazardous material will be disposed, nor have I read very closely any of
the scientific arguments against the project. In this light, I have very
little grounds upon which to create an opinion, either for or against it.
Nor do I feel particularly compelled to do so, at least until someone who
is proposing the project can answer one simple little question for me, in
a way that makes sense.
My question is: If this method of dealing with material such as
creosote impregnated wood, hospital wastes, used oils, and the like is so
safe, why does it have to be shipped hundreds or thousands of kilometres
from its sources in order to be incinerated? A supplementary question, I
suppose, might be that if the process is so sophisticated, why have the
jurisdictions from which the material is originating refused to incinerate
it at source?
Surely, it can not be more economical to ship the stuff all this
distance to get rid of it here than it would be to burn it right where it
is produced. Remember, we are talking about huge quantities here: all
sources seem to agree that 100 000 tons of hazardous material annually
will be processed, should the project go ahead, with the possibility of
expansion in the future. that translates into just under 275 tons
(actually 273.97) a day, given shipments for every day in the year. How
many truck, rail car, or barge loads is that each day? What are the costs
of such a volume of transportation?
No, this is what bothers me. It doesn't make any sense, no matter how
you look at it, to argue that it can be economical to transport this stuff
all the way from New Jersey, from various points in Ontario, or elsewhere
unless there is no other choice. Why is there no other choice? Again, how
can it be cheaper than processing it at source?
In lieu of a formal answer to this question, I can only come to one of
two possible conclusions. The first of them is that, once again, we are
not being told the whole story about the risks associated with the
process. The other conclusion is that the good people of New Jersey and of
industrial Ontario have heard about the economic plight of northern New
Brunswick and have decided, at great cost to themselves but in the spirit
of true charity, to push to establish this plant in Belledune as a token
of support and a contribution to an economic turnaround by creating work
for some thirty or forty people, work that they could have for their own
My first conclusion speaks for itself. As for my second, you will have
to forgive me, if I succumb to a touch of scepticism, but I really do not
believe in Santa Claus or in the boundless charity of industrial North
This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column.
It is reproduced with Mike's permission.