I moved to Owen Sound in July 2009. I bought a lovely house and I was starting over with my son. We did the usual stuff that one does to settle into a house in a new city. I wasn’t new to the area though, just new to Owen Sound. Sauble Beach had been my home since 1996 so I am familiar with Grey/Bruce.
I am known as one who is not able to remain quiet when things just don’t seem “quite right”. Like the time we had to boil our water in Sauble Beach for almost 9 months. I learned a lot about the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, the health unit and Henderson Paddon during that time. After that experience, I gave a presentation to Justice O’Connor in Walkerton at Jubilee Hall.
When I first heard about Bruce Power’s plan to ship the nuclear steam generators I was speechless. They “asked” city council to issue a heavy load permit. I thought that Owen Sound city council would never approve this venture. I also wondered why there had not been public consultation on the issue. My first reaction was to start sending emails and making phone calls. So I did. That is how CARGOS began.
I attended a city council meeting. One councillor shared an email he had received from a resident saying sharing concerns about terrorism and chuckles could be heard. One councillor said that Senator Runciman was concerned about rusty ships. In fact Senator Runciman is very worried about the low water levels in the St. Lawrence seaway and that is a legitimate concern.
Then a representative from the CNSC gave a presentation about the steam generators and how they would be prepared for transport. Dr. Hazel Lynn also gave her assessment on the radioactive risk to the public that the generators pose.
This was followed by a public question period. I asked council if they would consider asking for a public inquiry but got no response. The CNSC was going to webcast their decision and apparently that was good enough.
When I found out that open houses were to be held I went to the first one at the public health unit. Megan Biggs was at the table outside the reception room handing out the glossy information pamphlet and taking names, phone numbers and email addresses. Ironically I willingly gave my information, took a pamphlet and entered the room.
There were about 20 residents from Owen Sound there and media representatives. There was a tv with a tape of the previous evening’s city council meeting running for folks to view in one corner. There was another tv with a tape of Sweden’s operations running in another corner. Representatives were there from Bruce Power, Owen Sound city council and the health unit. They may have been there from Sweden but I didn’t speak to them.
I spoke to Ross Lamont from Bruce Power. I asked him why they didn’t consider building their own recycling operation at the plant. They have brilliant young minds working right there now. I’m sure they would qualify for NSERC (National Science and Energy Research Council) grants. BP could then be a leader in the field of green energy and the waste wouldn’t have to leave the area. He said that it would be too expensive and that the cost would then be handed down to the consumer.
I then asked him why don’t they build their own docks at Bruce Power? He answered “why should we? You have your own docks right here in Owen Sound.” So there we were. It appeared there was no room for negotiation.
Over the following weeks I was busy networking with many groups and individuals. I won’t reveal the names, but they are local, national and international environmental groups interested in stopping this shipment from leaving Bruce Power.
The reasons are simple. This is not a recycling program. The only thing being recycled is the steel. All of the waste is returning to Bruce Power. When officials say it is low level nuclear waste, they are not including the waste they have not been able to access deep inside the generators.
This is precedent setting and once we set this plan in motion there is no looking back. We don’t want the Great Lakes to be a shipping route for nuclear waste and we don’t want the harbour of Owen Sound to be a port for this waste.
The residents along this land route should not be put at risk. Yes the risk is low, but there is risk nonetheless.
If there are alternatives, let’s talk about them. What’s the rush?
We wrote letters demanding a public hearing and finally one was announced. I sent in my submission for intervention and was granted standing.
I decided to hold a public meeting in the early part of September. I thought that we should share the information that we had gathered so far and we could work on getting a petition together. Signatures might prove to city council that this is a far-reaching issue that they need to get public input before making any major decisions on it.
On September 7 about 25 people gathered at the Owen Sound Legion and we discussed the issues. We put together a petition in hard copy and an online petition and got to work.
September 13th a group of residents attended the city council meeting. I gave a short presentation to council expressing CARGOS’ concerns and presented the petitions with about 250 signatures. Members of CARGOS also spoke to council. It was decided that anyone that wants to be informed before the heavy load permit is issued will be notified by email. They need to submit their email address to the City Clerk’s office.
On the afternoon of September 14, I received a call on my cell phone. It was the OPP calling me. I was shocked and they assured me everything was okay. Then they told me that they wanted to talk about the nuclear steam generators but they did not have any opinions on the matter. From there I got confused and I thought they said they were with the OPP veterans’ association.
I write everything down, but due to where I was I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t write down their info. My first mistake. I said I’d meet them and so we agreed to meet at 10 pm that evening at Tim Horton’s after I finished my volunteering.
Another irony…that evening I did the camera work for Dave Carr Live on Rogers TV. That show Mayor Ruth Lovell Stanners and a Bruce Powers representative were guests. Bruce Powers was a no-show so I brought in some literature I had in my car to use as BP literature. There were a lot of callers that night. The mayor was a great guest.
We met at Tim Horton’s. I walked in looking for 2 OPP veterans. But all I saw were 2 young men, with pads and pens waiting for me. One was an aboriginal police officer. One of the officers gave me his card and they introduced themselves. They were from the OPP provincial liaison team. We began talking about peaceful protest and how to hold a peaceful protest. I was wondering if this was some sort of movie I was in or was this a mistake. I am just a person who thinks that Bruce Power’s proposal is a bad idea. Now this is a really bad idea…for me!
They told me that they had been to Bruce Power that day and that they were going to meet with the First Nations the next day. What they didn’t tell me was they had talked to the mayor also. Things started to connect for me days later. We talked some more about the G8 and Caledonia. They said that they were being proactive and they told me they would be in Ottawa on the 29th. Still in shock I got into my car, drove home and didn’t sleep.
The next day I got up and read online that the mayor of Blue Mountains was predicting massive protests. Since I didn’t want to be associated with those (due to my meeting with the OPP the evening before) I called the radio station and the Sun Times and made a statement. I told them that if there were any protests planned that CARGOS was not included. If CARGOS did plan to protest it would be peaceful protest. I also called the OPP and told them that I had called the media and they told me that was okay. They were “open and transparent” and that “they would talk to anyone.”
The agenda for the CNSC hearings was posted on September 17th. There were 77 submissions. They had to add an additional day. We had asked for one originally but it was denied.
Since that time I have received emails from folks who have also had contact from them…innocent folks who have no intent to protest Bruce Power.
I have a big question…why are they contacting us? Has the decision already been made and they are preparing for protests? If there are 77 individuals and organizations making submissions (not all of them are anti Bruce Power) and the decision is made to give Bruce Power the license to go ahead with this project of course there will be anger. Do they know that this license is going to be granted anyway? Is this already rubber stamped?
I have stated all along to Owen Sound city council that this issue is bigger than Owen Sound. It should have been discussed and debated well before this. Whether you are for or against it, it needed to be explored and folks needed to be educated about the issue with unbiased information. But it’s too late. The hearings are almost upon us and many people don’t have the facts.
You cannot expect the stakeholder to give you accurate information, especially when money is involved.
There is too much at risk here to sit back and let big corporations make decisions for us. Read what you can. Learn what you can. Make informed decisions. Talk about the issue.
It’s not easy to take a stand. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. People say nasty things to you. People write nasty things about you. People laugh at you. But go back to the beginning and ask “is it right?” If it isn’t, you are okay.
If you are interested in signing the petition