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Proposed move of drill mud facility from Nova Scotia to Conception Bay South worries residents

A photo included in the environmental assessment project registration the company submitted to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment shows the facility’s proposed location in the foreground, with homes visible in the background. Computer screenshot
A photo included in the environmental assessment project registration the company submitted to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment shows the facility’s proposed location in the foreground, with homes visible in the background. -Computer screenshot

Councillor says concerns are legitimate

CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. —

A proposed drill mud processing facility for Conception Bay South (C.B.S.) has some area residents concerned about potential environmental and health risks.

Nova Scotia-based Envirosoil is proposing to build a vacuum distillation unit (VDU) and pelletizing plant using a new technology the company developed, and began using, early last year.

The VDU would recover synthetic drilling fluid from used offshore drill mud and sell it back to petroleum companies. Remaining sludge would be pelletized and sold as a fuel product for use in industries such as cement plants or industrial boilers.

The company submitted its environmental assessment registration to the province on Jan. 3.

If approved by the province and the town, it would be located on Hops Street in the industrial park off Peacekeepers Way and Fowler’s Road, within the Manuels River watershed — 395 metres from the river — and less than 200 metres from homes.

The industrial park is zoned for commercial light industrial use, but this facility would be considered general industrial, meaning the town council has discretion over whether to approve it or deny it.

The town held a public meeting in October with roughly 50 to 60 people, Coun. Rex Hillier says.

Conception Bay South Coun. Rex Hillier. - Contributed
Conception Bay South Coun. Rex Hillier. - Contributed

Residents’ concerns ranged from potential environmental effects, concerns about spill containment and response, proximity to Manuels River, noise from operations, volume of truck traffic, emissions and effluents, odour, chemical makeup of drill muds, and emergency response planning and measures.

Shawn Clarke has lived on Fowler’s Road in C.B.S. for 11 years.

“Citizens, myself included, made it very clear that despite the assurances given by company officials when it came to the concern expressed over potential release of toxic materials, in the event of an industrial accident, they couldn’t give us any guarantees that one wouldn’t occur.”

Clarke said there are people in that area who have lived there for more than 40 years, and use well water.

“From a public interest, and a public safety and public health concern, this is too close to people’s homes,” he said.

“From a public interest, and a public safety and public health concern, this is too close to people’s homes." — Shawn Clarke, area resident

Hillier said nearby residents have “legitimate concerns.”

He said even though Envirosoil representatives answered the residents’ questions, the town hired a third-party engineering firm, Stantec, to consider the concerns and prepare a report, which Hiller said the town hopes to receive sometime this week.

Plant would be moved from Bedford, N.S.

Envirosoil’s project registration with the province says the facility “will be operated so as to minimize risk and potential environmental impacts, including sources of pollutants.”

The assessment indicated the “potential impacts” were noise pollution from operational activities, airborne exhaust emissions from operational equipment, dust, odours, and risk of fuel, lubricant and hydraulic fuel release.

It says measures will be implemented to mitigate potential environmental effects.

The proposed facility would be located within the Manuels River watershed, and be 395 metres from the river. Computer screenshot
The proposed facility would be located within the Manuels River watershed, and be 395 metres from the river. Computer screenshot

Meanwhile, the province is accepting public comments on the proposal until Feb. 11 at EAprojectcomments@gov.nl.ca.

Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Derrick Bragg’s decision on the proposal is due Feb. 17.

If approved by the province, it would then come before the C.B.S. town council for a final decision. Hillier said any C.B.S. residents with questions about the proposal are welcome to contact the town’s planning department.

If the proposal is approved, the company aims to have the facility assembled early this year, and begin operations by this summer.

In its project registration to the province, the company says site preparation, such as grading, would take four to six weeks. Assembling the facility will require six workers for up to 10 weeks.

The plant has already been temporarily assembled in both Chattanooga, Tenn., and Bedford, N.S., “successfully processing drill muds for a number of months,” according to Ken MacLean, vice-president and general counsel for companies in the Municipal Group, including Envirosoil.

Once operational, it would employ between four and eight people — a manager, and petroleum, gas and chemical process operators.

It’s unclear how many of those would be locally hired. The document indicates the facility would be operated by “experienced Envirosoil personnel” who have been running the plant in Bedford since May 2019.

“Any new operators will undergo a series of training led by experienced Envirosoil management and operators,” reads the project registration.

Well water concerns

The Telegram asked MacLean some questions about the proposed development, but he said the company is not providing detailed comments while the environmental assessment process with the province is ongoing.

“I do note that Envirosoil has been successfully and responsibly operating in soil remediation for decades and is very keen on bringing its business to Conception Bay South,” he said in email correspondence.

Envirosoil is one of many companies in the Municipal Group of Cos., including construction giant Dexter Construction.

News reports over the course of several years in Nova Scotia about well water contamination in Harrietsfield say residents blame a former demolition and recycling site, RDM Recycling, for the contamination. Others argue there were issues with the water in the area before the recycling site moved in.

The reports say RDM was co-directed by Brian Dubblestyne, who is listed as a vice-president of Municipal Enterprises (another Municipal Group company) on LinkedIn, and was, as of 2015, listed as a vice-president at Envirosoil by Open Corporates.

The Telegram called Envirosoil on Sunday and asked to speak with Dubblestyne, but was told he might be in on Monday. The employee said they weren’t sure of Dubblestyne’s role with Envirosoil, but that he is “high up” in the company.

The Telegram asked MacLean about RDM Recycling, but he had no comment, adding, “Envirosoil’s proposed business in C.B.S. is not related to construction and demolition debris recycling.”

He said Envirosoil began in 1992 and has successfully treated more than one million tonnes of contaminated materials without any environmental or regulatory issues.

MacLean did not answer a question about why the facility is being moved from Bedford to C.B.S., only to say it was located in Bedford “temporarily,” and its planned destination is C.B.S.

Hillier said his understanding is there’s an upswing in the oil industry in this province, and a downtown in Nova Scotia, so the company wants to get a toehold on the industry here.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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