Muskrat Falls landslides show dam built in danger zone: opponents
Opponents of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador claim the dam is being built in a danger zone, citing recent landslides along the Churchill River just a few kilometres from the construction site.
Last week, the ground shifted roughly five kilometres from the site of the project, leaving land broken off from the shoreline and clay drifting in the waters.
Opponents like Cabot Martin, a St. John's lawyer, say the landslide is proof the project is being built at an unstable site and is just another reason to stop the project altogether.
"You cannot build your house on sand, you know. You cannot build your house on bad ground, and quick clay is bad ground on steroids," said Martin.
However, Nalcor Energy vice-president Gilbert Bennett said project leaders have accounted for the clay earth at the site, but the site has already reached several metres below the surface, through the clay and into the bedrock.
No cause for concern: Nalcor
Bennett added the site has been studied since the 1960s and there is no reason to believe the dam will collapse into the river.
"We look at safety in general, we look at the engineering effort as ultimately intended to ensure public safety. We take that responsibility very seriously," said Bennett.
"As professionals, we have that obligation on behalf of the public and we have oversight processes in place to ensure that, in fact, that does take place."
We're long past the time when anybody has any right or any reasonable expectation to be saying 'Trust me, I'm the government.- Cabot Martin
Meanwhile, Roberta Benefiel, vice-president of the non-profit group Grand Riverkeeper, says she simply does not trust the project leaders.
"Right now we're getting tidbits of information. It's being dribbled out to us as Gilbert Bennett sees fit, and it's all rhetoric," she said.
Benefiel and Martin want an independent review conducted on the quality of the clay and the areas conditions. They say they need to know more about Nalcor's plans.
"We're long past the time when anybody has any right or any reasonable expectation to be saying, 'Trust me, I'm the government. Trust me.' That's not a big seller these days," said Martin.
But Nalcor said it isn't hiding anything from the public.
Bennett said the company commissioned an independent engineering adviser to assess the site, and that assessment can be found on Nalcor's website.