Cape Breton man creates website describing Bunker C oil landfill locations around the island
SYDNEY — When possible exposure to COVID-19 hijacked his Christmas vacation, Adam Malcolm found himself a project to occupy his time in isolation.
The resident of River Inhabitants, near Port Hawkesbury, decided to read a 42-year-old 233-page report from Nova Scotia Environment.
While it might not sound like everyone’s idea of a fun way to spend the holidays, Malcolm – a high school science teacher and Facebook group creator Stop Unama’ki Clearcutting and Nova Scotia Species at Risk — had a good reason to be interested in the material.
The 42-year-old report, titled Kurdistan Oil Spill: Land Based Disposal Operations for Cape Breton Island and Chedabucto Bay by hydrologist Fred E Baechler, was forwarded to him by Russ Green of the Howie Centre, who obtained it through of a Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Application.
For Malcolm, the report would fill in the gaps in what he knew about where Bunker C oil was buried in Cape Breton decades ago.
He is one of many residents in his area who discovered last fall that oil-soaked debris from Bunker C, from the 1970 SS Arrow oil spill in Chedabucto Bay, had been buried in the forest behind his garden more than 51 years ago. He learned soon after that similar debris from the 1979 MV Kurdistan oil spill in the Cabot Strait had also been buried at sites in Cape Breton, Guysborough and Richmond counties.
“And I thought I wanted more information, especially the locations of all the sites where the oil was spilled, and when I heard there were 18 (disposal sites), I was immediately curious to know where the others were,” Malcolm said. .
Information on all disposal sites was not readily available on the Nova Scotia Environment website at the time. He only noted that nine of the 18 disposal sites are on provincial lands in Richmond and Guysborough counties, and those that remain include municipal and private lands in Richmond, Guysborough and Cape Town counties. Breton.
Two reports, published in 2012 and available online, contained information on the sites in Richmond and Guysborough counties, but not those in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. This information was contained in Baechler’s aforementioned report, which was to be granted through a freedom of information and protection of privacy request.
The Post spoke to Green, of Nova Scotians for Equalization Fairness, who originally submitted the freedom of information and privacy request for the report, which the Cape Breton Post also had access to.
“We struggled to get the report, and then once we got it the government put it online,” said Green, who set up a volunteer board last fall to help. organize information about oil landfills. “They updated their sites and so on.”
MAKE IT PUBLICLY AVAILABLE
The Nova Scotia Environment Information page now includes a more detailed breakdown of the location of the various petroleum landfills than was posted there last fall.
“I guess (I was driven by) the experience here of learning in (October 2021) all this oil in the ground so close to our homes, and just the feeling of being on tiptoe (by the province),” said Malcolm. “My family has been here since the days of those oil spills and all the time since. None of our neighbors were ever made aware that all that oil had been dumped there.
Malcolm gradually read the 233-page 1980 report over his two-week Christmas vacation, choosing the information he thought would interest people the most.
“Some of it was dry reading,” Malcolm said. “But it’s also quite like, as someone who grew up in the area and knows…at least the general area, it’s quite interesting as well to see all the pictures, kinda disturbing to see all the pits and all the piles of barrels in places I know.
Malcolm said he came up with the idea of creating a website with a map marked with pins. Each pin would represent a Bunker C oil-soaked debris disposal site and, when clicked, would indicate which oil spill the site relates to and exactly how much oil was buried there.
“I just tried to figure out on my own how I could do it in a format that anyone could access, and that led me to create this little website with a map that you can navigate around and get that essential information. that are both in this document and from the (Department of Natural Resources),” Malcolm said.
For example, its website, arrowkurdistan.ca, shows a small flag near the Caribou Swamp near Gabarus Road. When clicked, an information box indicates that this is the location of an MV Kurdistan oil spill landfill with “approximately 187,320 full polythene bags and 881 45-pound drums. gallons filled with Bunker C, dead birds and beach sediment”.
“(Malcolm) basically marked out the locations of the sites and (viewers) can see the clusters of them, from basically the causeway here…to Glace Bay on this side of the island,” Green said. “We’ve started spreading the news (and) we’re still testing the waters.”
Malcolm said he believed that, like him, many people in Cape Breton probably had no idea that these oily debris landfills existed, which also motivated him to detail the information in an accessible format.
“It’s heartbreaking to me that from the perspective of my own community, we have this now in our – well, we’ve always had this in our backyards, and it was there without us knowing it,” said Malcolm. “It bothers me a bit. And especially since there are so many more. It is therefore important to convey this message.
Jessica Smith is a breaking news, human interest, environment and climate change reporter at the Cape Breton Post. Follow her on Twitter at @CBPost_Jessica.