If the turnout in Windsor last week was any indication, the number of people opposed to the provincial government lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is growing every day.
As the process may have a lasting impact on groundwater, as well as the health of residents living and working near fracking sites, it would be prudent of the government to maintain the ban while calling for additional research to be carried out.
The controversial shale gas extraction method has come under fire in recent years as more and more concerns are expressed about the long-term implications of allowing such activity to occur.
One only needs to look at Kennetcook to see a prime example of why we're not ready for this.
The government of the day issued a green light for fracking, allowing a US-based company to test the viability of the shale gas deposits in the region. As a result of the exploration, a number of tailing ponds were left behind.
The brine water, which is the waste produced when millions of litres of frack fluid is injected into the ground to release the shale gas and hydrocarbons from rock formations, has sat in these ponds for several years now. The exact chemicals used in the fracking process remain unknown, however the resulting brine water requires specialized treatment before it can be disposed of.
While the holding ponds have been sitting idle since the discovery of naturally occurring radioactive materials in 2011, the brine water leaked due to heavy rainfall over the winter. Although the Department of Environment assured the public that it was just runoff from wet winter weather, it's little comfort to those already concerned with the process.
These holding ponds must serve as a reminder of why due diligence is vital before projects are given a green light.
Dr. David Wheeler, the chairperson of the panel leading a review of hydraulic fracturing, took heat at the most recent public meeting held in Windsor on the topic. While this is no doubt a sensitive issue, especially in light of the many unknowns and possible health concerns, people shouldn't be so quick to dismiss what he has to say.
Wheeler, who expects that the review will be filed with the provincial government next month, said “we need a big debate in our province” about the implications of hydraulic fracturing. He also suggested residents feeling strongly about the subject must let their political representatives know.
Further, he admitted that the panel doesn't “know what would be the long-term implications for health and well-being of future generations.”
And that truly is the crux of the matter.
We don't know. We don't know how these actions will affect the next generation, and the generations to come, without conducting more research. It is up to us to demand the government be responsible with not only our livelihoods, but with our health and well-being in mind.
We must demand the moratorium stay in place, at least until there is concrete proof that the process is safe, and there are adequate — and timely — disposal methods available.
Allowing fracking to continue, especially after a panel of experts say there are still so many unknowns, is a risk we simply can't afford to take.