Lord won't meet incinerator foes

Canadian Press
Globe and Mail
Sat., Sept. 18, 2003

Fredericton — A group of people opposed to plans to build a toxic waste incinerator in their northern New Brunswick community were disappointed Thursday when Premier Bernard Lord would not personally accept their petition.

“He's voted in by the people, he should be able to respond to the people,” Junia Culligan said after learning that she and the others would not be able to go to the Premier's office to hand him a 658-name petition opposing the incinerator.

“I had great admiration for him a year ago, but no longer. I feel he has let the people down.”

Ms. Culligan and four other women from the village of Belledune, population 1,900, made the four-hour drive to Fredericton to give Mr. Lord the petition asking his Progressive Conservative government to conduct an independent health and environmental assessment of the proposed incinerator.

Bennett Environmental of Oakville, Ont., plans to start building the $20-million incinerator this fall, with commissioning likely in the spring. The plant would burn soils laden with hydrocarbons and creosote.

The five women ended up handing the petition to Mr. Lord's press secretary, Chisholm Pothier, who met them in the lobby of the government building. The women were not allowed past the government's newly installed security wall.

“We want our government to answer to us,” Ms. Culligan told Mr. Pothier.

The press secretary took the petition and promised to give it to Mr. Lord.

He also told the group that Environment Minister Brenda Fowlie would meet with them at her office on the other side of town.

“We're very disappointed we cannot give this directly to the Premier ourselves,” said Kathleen Hayes, a member of the Belledune group. “We want to know our concerns are being taken seriously.”

The first job of the incinerator, if it goes ahead, would be to treat 300,000 tonnes of contaminated soil from a hazardous waste site in Manville, N.J.

The Belledune plant would be similar to a controversial facility that Bennett Environmental wanted to build in Kirkland Lake, Ont.

The Ontario plan was recently dealt a blow when that province's Environment Department rejected much of the company's data concerning human health and environmental impacts.

Opposition to the New Brunswick plant has been growing for the past couple of months, but that did not stop the government from giving Bennett the green light to build the facility.

The women from Belledune said they are afraid the incinerator will add an intolerable burden of contaminants to an already polluted environment.

Noranda has operated a lead smelter in the area for 30 years.

“We don't want to live in the cesspool of New Brunswick,” Ms. Hayes said.

The province issued its approval for the incinerator earlier this month after Bennett fulfilled requirements, including a health-risk assessment.

The assessment, performed by a private company and paid for by Bennett, concluded that no acute or chronic health effects could be expected as a result of emissions from the plant.