Environmental group calls for end to coal as fuel source


Trenton’s Fun Fest may have entertained the bulk of the town last weekend but there was little fun to be found on Power Plant Road.

Members of the Hillside Environmental Watch Group sat along side the road to protest emissions from the Trenton Generating Station and spent Sunday afternoon waiting for local politicians and anyone else in a position of power or influence to stop by and hear their concerns.

The group formed about 12 years ago while group spokesman Peter Boyles of Hillside has been speaking out, fighting and raising awareness of the issue since 1999. In that time, Boyles has dealt with and spoken to members of three different provincial governments and members off all three political parties. He’s spoken to federal politicians as well including Green Party leader Elizabeth May and the late NDP leader and Leader of the Official

Opposition Jack Layton. He has the photos to prove it.

He has the photos to prove a lot of things.

Sunday’s protest brought out Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn who represents Trenton and Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane who represents Abercrombie. Both made themselves available to talk to and hear out Boyles or anyone else who had something to say. Pictou East MLA Tim Houston, whose constituency includes Hillside, was unable to attend but had made himself available to Boyles earlier in the week.

For Boyles the protest wasn’t so much about who showed up as it was what they planned to do about the emissions issue. In addition to the chemical pollution, the protesters complained about fly ash that affects the area.

“It hits everywhere, Hillside, Trenton, it depends which way the wind is blowing. It’s landing on our properties, eating into our cars and into our land, furniture, homes, everything,” he said.

Boyles said a number of people have had their car’s paint destroyed from the fly ash – he has pictures that show the damage – and his own personal history includes NS Power sodding his lawn when his own grass wouldn’t grow and the power company replacing a swimming pool ruined by contamination.

Boyles said the group isn’t wishing to see the power plant close or for anyone to be out of job; instead, the call is to eliminate coal as a fuel and replace it with… well, anything really.

“We don’t really care so long as it gets away from the coal,” Boyles said, while suggesting solar, natural gas, or even propane as alternatives.

“You’ve got windmills,” Boyles said. “They told us once the windmills started putting in more kilowatts into the grid they would cut back. They never cut back, they never cut one shovelful back.”

Boyles said he has been told a lot of things since 1999 but to listen to him list them off it would be fair to say he’s doubtful of anything he’s been told coming to fruition.

“It’s just terrible,” Boyles said, “but the worst of all is we had a meeting with Randy Delorey when he was Energy Minister and Delorey turned around and said when the approval came up in a few years maybe he could do something then, but we got word that they didn’t change anything.”

Boyles said he has a “big concern” on the horizon, one that dashes hopes of NSP switching off coal in the near future.

“They want to open a new mine in Springhill,” Boyles said. “Jamie Baillie (leader of the PC party and MLA for Cumberland South) is not going to go against a new mine. What that means is coal that could be sent to Trenton, but we’re not letting it go in. If that starts we’re blocking it and we’re going to keep it blocked.”

Boyles suspects the pollution from the Trenton generator could reach as far as PEI or Antigonish and stated that there are 65 different chemicals present in the emissions including one a testing lab “never even heard of.” A test sample of soil from his property, Boyles claimed, had the same concentration of chemicals as a sample straight from the plume would have.

A study dating back to 2003 shows that the generating station was responsible for 10 percent of the province’s air pollution – pollution which includes mercury, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, and hexachlorobenzene. This organochloride in particular was briefly used as a fungicide before being banned and is now a known carcinogen in animals and is a suspected carcinogen in humans.

“You’ve got stuff like this going on,” Boyles said, “you’ve got a government that’s playing both sides of it – I don’t care what government’s in – they’ve got jobs there (in the industry) that they don’t want to lose yet at the same time they’re trying to appease us but we’re trying to tell them ‘listen, do you know how many people die of lung cancer from environmental damage caused by power plants’?”

Boyles said there are studies and reports conducted in Ontario that show a decrease in serious health issues following a move away from coal and towards greener power sources.

Above photo: Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane with Hillside Environmental Watch Group spokesperson Peter Boyles. The Environmental group held a peaceful
demonstration protesting the emissions from Nova Scotia Power  during the FunFest weekend

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