A couple living near a planned natural gas storage facility want it shut down before it even opens.

AltaGas has drilled three huge salt caverns near Alton, a rural community north of Stewiacke, N.S. That project stopped work recently, and a second project site stopped in October over environmental objections. Both sites are idle, but people living near the salt caverns worry that noise will resume when the second phase of construction resumes. 

Valerie Hawks couldn't sit on her new deck last summer because of noise from the rig drilling storage caverns located 0.5 kilometres from her home. She’s worried that if work resumes, their outdoor sanctuary will be once again marred by noise pollution.

"Part of the concern is the noise. They are allowed to run 24/7. There are a few people on this road taking sleeping pills at night so they can sleep through the night because the noise wakes us up continually," she said Monday.

Her husband Colin operates a mechanics shop that he says has lost value because of the noise and heavy truck traffic, which is expected to continue two more years if the $130 million project gets restarted.

"I don’t believe compensation is what we are looking for. We are looking for what we had. This is a company, this should never have taken place. We don’t benefit as Nova Scotia, or as a community, from this project."

The Hawks didn’t participate in the project’s environmental approval process seven years ago — they say they didn't know about it — but they want it stopped now.

Consultations with Mi'kmaq

In October, the Nova Scotia government halted part of the construction work on the $100-million Alton Natural Gas Storage Project until Calgary-based AltaGas carries out further consultation with the local Mi'kmaq First Nation.

Nova Scotia is enforcing the consultation by withholding provincial permits. 

The government says consultations continue, and until they’re complete the company can’t get a permit to dump the salt from the caverns into the Shubenacadie River.

Until it can dispose of the brine, the Alton project can’t start hollowing out the caverns near the neighbours. The company says the noise level has been, and will be, less than what is permitted.

"There won’t be the same level of noise when we are constructing the gas facilities. They have a schedule, they go home at night, so it isn’t 24 hours a day," said Atlon’s David Birkett.

AltaGas says the natural gas storage will help avoid price spikes and save them up to $17 million a year.