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Inventor skips Six Nations meeting about failed incinerator report

Six Nations Elected Council has spent $805,000 so far on a $4.8-million incinerator project. Residents gathered at a community meeting Thursday to hear about health and environmental impacts, but many left with more questions than answers.

John Kearns nowhere to be seen at Thursday's community meeting

Six Nations Election Council chief Ava Hill looks on during Thursday's community meeting about the Kearns Disintegrator environmental testing report. (Jeff Green/CBC)

Six Nations residents are demanding answers as to why they have become the testing ground for an unproven garbage incinerator that promised zero-emissions yet was found to emit pollutants 200 times above provincial standards.

At a community meeting Thursday, on the heels of that failed environmental testing, Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) chief Ava Hill said there is still a lot of talk that needs to happen before any decision to move forward with the $4.8-million project, one the band has already spent $805,000 on so far.

But at Thursday's meeting at Six Nations, no answers were given as to the next steps for the waste crisis in Oshweken, only that the questions would be considered by council when they meet next.

There were questions on long-term health effects, alternatives in place at other municipalities, calls for recycling campaigns, and even a pitch from a waste-to-energy company — and yet the inventor of the "Disintegrator," Nova Scotian John Kearns, was nowhere in sight.

"Air testing should have been done in Nova Scotia before he ever brought that unit onto our territory close to our schools," said Six Nations resident Carrie Johnson, who lives close to the landfill and incinerator. "I'm not interested in his ideas or his technology and I wish he would just take it all back to Nova Scotia."

Engineers from RWDI Consulting presented a report on the environmental testing of the Disintegrator, a machine the SNEC had selected to solve their ongoing waste crisis. Their current 40-year landfill is unlined, and was filled up in 2006 after roughly 20 years. Since then, garbage has been piling on at a previously reported rate of 120 tonnes per month.

The Disintegrator is a 30-year-old invention of Kearns, who claims the machine uses garbage as its fuel, does not release emissions, and burns all waste without the need to recycle or sort, reducing the garbage into inert ash.

'The unit obviously isn't working'

"The unit obviously isn't working, as per design, for sure," RWDI senior project manager Kirk Easto said in his presentation.

He did, however, say that computer simulated dispersion models show the incinerator is in the "right spot," and that based on their estimates, even the closest homes would not be subject to pollutants above provincial and federal standards.

Easto said that modelling was requested by SNEC after the main testing was done in the "stack" of the Disintegrator. Those results were given to council in late January, almost two months prior to Thursday's meeting.

Asked if council is still going to pursue investigating the Kearns technology after the failed test, Chief Hill said it's not her decision, it's council's.

'Prove to us that it works first'

"The machine that is there is a demo," said Hill after the meeting. "Council is going to decide if the demo works properly, then we would look at purchasing a machine.

"That was the agreement. Prove to us that it works first."

Hill made brief remarks at the tail end of Thursday's meeting while SNEC senior administrative officer Dayle Bomberry moderated the discussion, which quickly strayed from the engineer's presentations. Shouts from the crowd of roughly 100 people asked for solutions to the waste crisis, and asked for SNEC to put a greater emphasis on recycling efforts.

The two engineers, which included Easto and his colleague and co-author of the report Mike Lepage, limited themselves to answers about the three-day test conducted in November 2014. The machine ran off and on for months before any testing was done, and shut down in June 2014 as a result of community protests when black smoke and ash could be seen coming from the unit.

There was no one there to answer short or long term health effects from running the machine. The chief and councillors present at the meeting did not take questions. Hill, however, did said they would take Thursday's meeting topics into consideration at the next council meeting.

With files from Wendy Martin, CBC Cape Breton

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