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WENDY ELLIOTT: What’s going on in the wilds of Hants County?

Wendy Elliott. File
Wendy Elliott. File - SaltWire Network

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but just lately I’ve been wondering if truth is replicating fiction. Anyone who’s read Linda Moore’s second Nova Scotia mystery, Fundy Vaults, might know what I’m thinking of…

Moore’s second novel was a page-turner when it came out in 2016. There was local scenery, like Kingsport, eco-justice and the murder of a sleuthing young journalist.

Without giving the entire plot away, a woman’s body is found tangled in the roots of a floating tree and there’s a remote North Mountain quarry that is strangely guarded. A multi-national corporation that has something to hide becomes the focus.

The premise of Moore’s novel prompted me to get in touch with her and she was taken aback by this new coincidence as well. Everyone sounds kind of baffled — objecting, but helpless, she thought.

I’m pretty sure the reason that nobody’s asking too many pointed questions about why a U.S. multi-national wants to stockpile explosives at an old barite mine in Walton is because it’s in remote Hants County. It’s not unlike the fictional quarry Moore depicted near Ross Creek.

Walton is also on the Bay of Fundy. In 1956, when its barite mine was operating, the community had 650 residents. But the mine closed back in the 70s.

Lately, it was known for exporting a heritage church to the Avondale Sky Winery in 2011, and then losing its barite wharf to arson in 2012.

In late January, word got out that the Texas-based Halliburton corporation was building an explosives storage facility up at the old mine site. The locals knew something was up, but had no details. I suspect that is largely because National Resources Canada governs industrial explosive storage.

Certainly Rupert Jannasch, the local municipal councillor, told this newspaper he hadn’t been able to get too many questions answered — like why store oil extraction explosives in Walton.

A municipal permit for one storage building related to the offshore oil and gas industry was issued in November. According to the federal regulations, I read online, industrial explosives and initiation systems must be stored separately. That may be why the Halliburton PR person spoke to the media about “several modules.”

Interestingly, the region around the Walton site is marked by two major sets of geological faults, oriented east-west and northwest-southeast. Are they natural “vaults,” which are basically large cavities in the local stone?

I have heard people wonder whether the explosives storage site might be connected to the start of possible fracking in this part of the world.

Last year Halliburton made $24 billion in revenue. Its name is familiar due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The company has acknowledged that it skipped a critical test on an oil well seal before its disastrous blow out. As a result, the firm agreed to settle outstanding legal claims against it by paying out $1.1 billion.

The Denver Post reported that the 2014 death of a Halliburton fracking employee was among at least 51 fatalities since 2003 in Colorado’s oil and gas fields, based on federal data. Let’s hope Halliburton is protective of its three Walton employees and that the government holds them accountable.

Lest we focus too hard on Halliburton and its shortcomings — in 2017 the National Post reported that newly constructed Canadian Forces ammunition storage bunkers in Bedford had to be shut down because of problems. The seven bunkers cost taxpayers more than $13 million, but they were so plagued by construction flaws the military was forced to remove all the explosives due to safety concerns. I saw construction underway there lately, visible from the highway.

While talking mysteries, Moore and I did share our cynicism with big corporations. She’d just watched a scary new documentary, The Devil We Know, about years of Dupont hiding the evidence of health hazards in the chemistry of Teflon coatings. I told her about the Sackler family building Purdue Pharmacy by selling addiction along with oxycontin.

Now, we have this multi-national storing explosives near Cape Blomidon. Coincidences aside, let me ask again: what is going on in the wilds of Hants County?

RELATED STORY: Locals lament lack of information as U.S. oil company sets up explosives storage facility in Walton

Former Kings County News reporter Wendy Elliott, now retired, is a freelance journalist living in Wolfville.

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