New Brunswick

Planned dump site creates worry for chief of neighbouring First Nation community

Natoaganeg First Nation Chief George Ginnish is concerned about a plan to build a construction material waste dump on a piece of land just north of his community in northeastern New Brunswick, but the proponent of the project says it would pose no threat to the environment.

Natoaganeg First Nation Chief George Ginnish concerned about potential drinking water contamination

Chief George Ginnish of Eel Ground First Nation: A "massive" violation of Aboriginal and treaty rights. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

The chief of a New Brunswick First Nation says he's concerned about the impact a proposed dump site near the community could have on the community's drinking water.

The proposed dump site is just north of Natoaganeg First Nation, formerly known as Eel Ground First Nation, and would be upstream from the watershed that feeds the community's drinking well water, said Chief George Ginnish.

He said he's worried that if any material were to leach into the soil, the community's water supply could be contaminated.

"We're very concerned that anything that could contaminate [the drinking water supply] would be massive," Ginnish said.

"We've worked for years to develop the current water system. It's probably taken 15 years to get it where it is now, where it's … a good supply, and for anything to threaten that, it's not acceptable."

No chemicals to be dumped on site, says proponent

Delway Enterprises Ltd. is the company planning to set up the dump and has already cleared a section of land for that purpose, said David Matchett, the owner of Delway.

He said while an application has been submitted to the Department of Environment and Climate Change, the project has been put on hold over "legal issues."

Matchett didn't elaborate on what the legal issues are, or if or when the project would resume, but defended it against Ginnish's concerns that it would threaten the community's drinking water.

Matchett said the site would be strictly used for dumping construction and demolition waste, such as building materials.

A letter the company sent CBC News provided a list of materials that could be dumped at the site, and they include concrete, brick, untreated wood, siding, ceiling tile and glass from doors and windows.

Delway Enterprises Ltd., in a letter to CBC, said the proposed site would only allow dumping of construction and demolition debris, and would not accept hazardous and leachable materials. (Submitted by Delway Enterprises Ltd.)

"They [Natoaganeg First Nation] are over 2 km away from that site... and I don't know what concern they'd have," Matchett said.

"There's no chemicals, there's no gas, there's no oil."

Aside from not accepting chemicals that could leach into the soil and water, Matchett said the site would also be inspected regularly and would be shut down and cleaned up immediately if any chemicals were to be accidentally dumped.

Matchett said he wanted to open the dump site to help deter what he says is an "awful lot of illegal dumping" he's noticed in the area.

"Go down some of those roads and they're full of all kinds of debris. There's a bad need to have something like that because there's so much illegal dumping going on. It's bad."

Awaiting consultation from province

Ginnish said he and his community wrote a letter to Environment Minister Gary Crossman explaining their worries over possible pollution from the site.

Ginnish said said he's still waiting for a response.

"We also assert our Aboriginal title to the land, which encompasses a large portion of the province, including where the proposed project is located so... the Crown has a legal obligation to consult with us whenever it has knowledge of any action that might affect our asserted or recognized treaty rights," he said.

Anne Mooers, spokesperson for the Department of Environment, said in an email that the application review process for the dump site is in its early phases.

"The government of New Brunswick is committed to strengthening relationships with First Nations and recognizes the benefit of early engagement," Mooers said.

"We are committed to providing Eel Ground First Nation with all relevant information regarding this application and the review process."

Mooers said the department is reviewing Delway's application and the site will not be allowed to receive any construction and demolition debris until a decision on granting approval has been made.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aidan Cox

Web reporter/editor

Aidan Cox is a web writer for the CBC based in Fredericton. He can be reached at aidan.cox@cbc.ca and followed on Twitter @Aidan4jrn.

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