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Residents living near Annapolis County dump worry water may become contaminated

Fire trucks set up near a cell at the Arlington Heights C&D Site in Annapolis County after a blaze Sept. 7.
Fire trucks set up near a cell at the Arlington Heights C&D Site in Annapolis County after a blaze Sept. 7. - Ian Fairclough

Company, Environment Department say there have been no permit violations

A group of residents living near a construction and demolition waste site in Annapolis County where a fire was recently extinguished wants the government to close down the site.

Two dozen members of the community group calling themselves the Waterkeepers met Sept. 8  and passed a motion to ask the province to close the site immediately “pending the public release of a full investigation of the site’s potential negative impact on the air and water environment and population of Annapolis County, especially for those living in the watershed below the dump site.”

The meeting was the third on the issue for residents, and had been called before the fire occurred.

The group, made up residents of about four dozen homes in St. Croix Cove, Port Lorne and Hampton, says it is primarily concerned about the expansion of an asbestos disposal site on the property. They said they didn’t receive adequate notice of the application, and that they have seen open bags of asbestos at the site, and bags not properly covered with soil.

The asbestos site was not where the fire occurred Sept. 7.

Some community members say they’re concerned about run-off from the site, and whether asbestos debris is getting into local brooks and ground water that will feed their wells. They have met with Environment Department officials but say they didn’t feel like their complaints were taken seriously. They also believe that the site was originally a wetland before the current owner took over the operation.

They say they are taking their own water samples from brooks that run down toward the Bay of Fundy from the site.

“The place they chose to put it is our water source, we all have wells along here,” said David Olson.

His home is on St. Croix Cove Road, which runs parallel to the road where the Arlington Heights C&D Site is situated.

“We’re talking about a very large amount of material,” said neighbour Kip McCurdy.

“You don’t need to be a hydrologist to know that water runs downhill,” Olson said.

McCurdy said he is worried that a significant rain event could wash asbestos from the site, through their properties and into the Bay of Fundy.

He said he has seen the open and exposed bags of asbestos that are not covered, and the soil cap on top is coming apart.

But Jennifer Poole, who has owned the operation for the past 18 years, said the operation is in compliance with her permit to operate. She said Environment Department inspectors were on site during the fire and found no issues with the construction and demolition waste area, where the fire happened, or the asbestos site, which is nearby.

She said an inspector was at the asbestos site the day before the fire because of a public complaint, but found no violations.

She said she wasn’t invited to attend the Waterkeepers meeting, and her understanding was that the meeting wasn’t widely known in the community.

“There’s nothing wrong with people meeting to discuss their concerns, but if they wanted some factual information from the site, I would have thought they would have extended an invitation to those who are familiar with the material and the facilities.”

She said there was notice of the application for expansion, and “the minister of Environment is not going to issue permits if everything isn’t done by the book.”

After the fire, the Environment Department said a search of its recent records showed no violations of Poole’s permit, she said.

Poole said the fire has been deemed out and the area capped with clay and sand. She said her employees were monitoring the site and had water on hand, and have been taking water samples from the area and submitting them to the Environment Department.

“I’ve been in touch with Environment a few times and following up, the RCMP is following up.” she said.

“Environment told me today that I was going way above and beyond what is necessary to be done.”

Last week, Poole offered a $10,000 reward for information on the fire, which she said was deliberately set. She said he has turned over video footage from her site to police that showed someone on site.

McCurdy said his group would not do anything like setting a fire at the site, which could create water run-off .

“We do not condone violence or vandalism; not because of potential run-off, but because (opposing) it is the right thing to do.”

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