Nova Scotia

Oxford Frozen Foods to shut Annapolis Valley operation

About 100 seasonal workers are losing their jobs at an Annapolis Valley frozen food processing facility that will close after Environment Canada ordered it to stop discharging water into a nearby waterway.

100 seasonal workers will lose jobs as Hillaton carrot processor prepares to close its doors

Hillaton Foods, a division of Oxford Frozen Foods that processes and freezes carrots for the North American market, is closing at the end of December. (iStock)

About 100 seasonal workers are losing their jobs at an Annapolis Valley frozen food processing plant that will close after Environment Canada ordered it to stop discharging waste water into a nearby waterway. 

Hillaton Foods, a division of Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. that primarily processes carrots for the North American market, is shutting down its facility near Canning, N.S., at the end of the year. 

Jordan Burkhardt, director of human resources for Oxford Frozen Foods, said most employees at Hillaton Foods are seasonal. The 100 jobs are equivalent to 53 full-time positions. The company said those losing their jobs can apply for work at the plant in Oxford, N.S. 

Wayne Altman, a councillor for the Municipality of Kings County, said the news is terrible for the Canning area.

"It's devastating," he said. "There's no words to explain it, it's devastating."

"It won't be good. I'm sure some people will move away. It's not good for the tax base, it's not good for nothing.

"There's no win about it at all, it's all failure as far as I'm concerned."

He says he "can't believe" there's not a solution, and adds that this a test for the newly elected federal Liberal government. 

Diana Brothers, warden for the Municipality of the County of Kings, said she hopes a solution can be found to try and keep the plant open.

"It's certainly devastating to our community when we hear that we're losing 100 jobs," she said.

"I think it means several things. We talk about our children having to go out west and jobs are certainly hard to come by, so I certainly hope things can be worked out so those jobs can stay in the county somehow."

'No economically-feasible solution'

Oxford says Hillaton operated under a provincial permit and that a study done for the company showed waste water from the facility did not harm the environment and there was "no measurable impact on water quality in the Habitant estuary."

However, Environment Canada issued an order prohibiting the company from discharging into tidal waters after Dec. 31, according to the company.

"We looked at many options, but there was just no economically-feasible solution for us," said Burkhardt.

The issue is the provincial and federal governments use different testing methods, according to Burkhardt. 

The province tests diluted waste water within the estuary, he says. Under the federal regime, Burkhardt says, stickleback fish are placed in undiluted waste water and must survive for 72 hours. 

Burkhardt said the organics in the undiluted sample "take up" much of the oxygen in the water, suffocating the fish. He says it does not reflect what happens in the estuary. 

"If you go to the end of where the pipe is disposed into the bay, there's actually fish swimming and actually it's a main fishing hole for many of the locals," said Burkhardt.

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