Alton Gas reps visit site for equipment, signage work

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STEWIACKE: According to water protectors on site at the Alton Gas site near Stewiacke, the company has posted signs outside the Treaty Camp at the Shubenacadie River naming them as trespassers and criminals.

Grassroots Mi’kmaq water protectors have been holding down a protection camp at the Shubenacadie River for nine months to prevent Alton Gas from dumping thousands of tons of salt brine every day into the river. In a press release, they said they are outraged by Alton Gas’ bully tactics and intent to resume work on the project without allowing Sipekne’katik to complete its community consultation process.

Alton Gas spokeswoman Lori MacLean confirmed an employee and contractor visited the Alton work site on the Shubenacadie River estuary.

“There is equipment and information signage that must be checked and maintained,” said MacLean on Feb. 14. “Recently, an Alton staff member and contractor were briefly at the river site to replace signage. Law enforcement representatives were present for the maintenance visit.

“We respect the rights of individuals to express their views peacefully; however the Alton river site is open only to Alton staff and to approved contractors, and the signage communicates that information.”

The Alton Gas project proposes to create two salt caverns by solution mining an existing salt deposit, dumping the salt brine in the Shubenacadie River, and filling the resulting caverns with gas. According to the water protectors release, Alton Gas is eight years behind schedule, has a number of lapsed and defunct permits, and has cancelled two of the four caverns it originally planned to create.

“This camp is peaceful and principled,” says grassroots grandmother water protector, Dorene Bernard. “We’re here as Mi’kmaq and treaty rights holders to defend our right to this river and this place. Alton Gas is trying to paint us as criminal for protecting our treaty rights and doing our sacred duty to protect our unceded lands and waters.”

Sipekne’katik has been developing its own consultation process, said Bernard, who reiterated that the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative (KMKNO) does not represent Sipekne’katik.

“Alton Gas is trying to bully us here at the river by calling us criminals, and bully our band council into signing an impact benefit agreement,” said Bernard.

MacLean said the mud buildup in the channel was expected as brining has not yet started, which means water is not being drawn from the channel or released back into it.

She said misinformation has been relayed in regards to there being four wells, when in fact Alton has only ever drilled three for possible cavern development.

“At this time, we plan to proceed with two storage caverns to meet the needs of natural gas customers in Nova Scotia,” said MacLean.