Chronicles

Bennett Environment 2

        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 people.

        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 America.

       

        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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