AltonGas Needs a Climate Change Assessment

Dr.  David Cone, Department of Biology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia discovered a disease like PKD on a fish farm in Nova Scotia as early as 1991.Alexis Bonogofsky wrote about “reports of dead fish floating and collecting on the banks of the iconic Yellowstone River began coming into Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in early August. The Yellowstone flows for 692 miles from Absaroka mountain range in Wyoming, through Yellowstone National Park, into the prairies of eastern Montana and finally, the Missouri River.

FWP officials took tissue samples from the dead fish to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Health Center in nearby Bozeman, Montana. The whitefish were found to have died from Proliferative Kidney Disease (PKD), which is caused by a microscopic parasite known to occur in Canada, the United States and Europe. PKD kills fish by causing extreme inflammation in their kidneys and spleen. In the past 20 years, smaller and isolated outbreaks of the disease have occurred in two locations in Montana in addition to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The parasite can affect all members of the salmonid family, including trout, salmon, char and grayling.”

Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae is a myxozoan parasite of salmonid fishes. It causes proliferative kidney disease (PKD), one of the most serious parasitic diseases of salmonid populations in Europe and North America, which causes losses of up to 90% in infected populations.

Dr.  David Cone, Department of Biology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia has an article in the Journal of Fish Diseases 1991, 14, 503-505, which reported the discovery of a disease that  resembled myxosporean development at a fish farm in Nova Scotia.

Could this affect the fish in the Shubenacadie River?

The 45th parallel makes up most of the boundary between Montana and Wyoming. … The parallel roughly bisects mainland Nova Scotia. Montana has also been suffering from drought the last few years just like parts of nova Scotia did this year.

An Environment Canada climatologist is warning that a dry spell in Nova Scotia that has left some people without water is just a “dress rehearsal” for the kind of weather conditions Canada can expect in the years to come.

Alton Natural Gas Storage L.P. is a subsidiary of AltaGas and plans to build underground salt caverns to store natural gas in Alton, Nova Scotia. They flush the caverns with a brine solution that is mostly salt and water. This solution will later be released into the Shubenacadie River.

If you look at the heat capacity of salt water, you will find that it is less than pure water. In other words, it takes less energy to raise the temperature of the salt water 1°C than pure water. And in the winter time, adding salt to the ice lowers its freezing point, so even more energy has to be absorbed from the environment in order for it to melt.

AltonGas claims they monitor the river for dry weather conditions in Nova Scotia. In an article on their site they claim:

During the dry weather conditions in Nova Scotia in the summer of 2016, salinity levels in the river naturally exceeded 28 parts per thousand (ppt). When natural river salinity is greater than 28 ppt, brining operations at Alton are automatically stopped to protect the river. At this time, water will continue to be circulated in the cavern and brining activity will be temporarily suspended.

To check salinity levels in the river, there are salinity monitors upstream and downstream of the brine release point to constantly measure the river in real time. The monitors also control the brine release rates.

Here’s how the process works. The control system takes readings from the salinity monitors upstream of the brine release point. The system compares these readings to readings from salinity monitors downstream of the release point.  Based on this comparison, the control system sends a signal to the valve controlling brine release.  If salinity starts to increase downstream, the valve reduces the brine release to ensure that the readings at the downstream monitors do not exceed a permitted level of 7 ppt above the river’s salinity level.  If the readings are ever greater than the maximum permitted level of 28 ppt, a shut down valve automatically closes and stops any further brine release from the pipe.

A lower river in the summer from the heat, and a raised temperature of the river in the winter  would suggest the fish will be much more susceptible to PKD and other diseases.  If this year really was a “dress rehearsal” for the kind of weather conditions we can expect in coming years, does it mean they will have to exceed the maximum permitted level of 28 ppt in order to release any brine during hot summer months?

The Mi’kmaq community who use the river along with other residents from the surrounding area, have opposed the Alton Gas project. They doubt the science behind the project and don’t feel it warrants approval. They have asked for more consultation but the government has lashed out saying they have done all they will. In an article by the Local Express it says:

The Mi’kmaq community says the provincial government is setting back its relationship with First Nations by decades.

“The Nova Scotia government refuses to recognize what has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest law of the land,” said Cheryl Maloney, a member and former councillor of the Sipekne’katik band.

Maloney was responding to a legal brief written by Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron that maintains the Crown’s obligation to consult extends only to “unconquered people.” Cameron will argue before the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia that the Sipekne’katik band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated government’s constitutional duty to consult.

Racist remarks from the government elected to take Nova Scotia into the 21 century, clearly show we need more progressive thinkers representing us.

This summer the Shubenacadie River was at the lowest level it has seen in decades.With climate change, higher water temperatures and increased acidity will affect species distribution and ecosystem health, including fish reproduction and distribution. If AltaGas starts releasing brine into the river the damage will be increasingly worse through the two, to three years it takes to flush 1.3 million cubic metres into the river.

The Sipekne’katik band wants the project stopped to allow climate change research to be done but they continually meet resistance. As an article by the Council of Canadians explains, ” We also know that the Shubenacadie River is an will continue to be affected by climate change. Water levels across Nova Scotia will become more extreme as the climate changes – we’ll get more intense downpours and harsher dry spells. This summer the Shubenacadie River was at the lowest level it has seen in decades. The Alton Gas project plans to take mass quantities of water out of the river on each tide cycle to solution mine the caverns. There are real concerns, and very little study, about the effects of taking water out of the river when it is already very low.”

Upon a successful run with the two caverns they intend to build, there are plans in the works for another twenty.  This will result in lowering the resistance of fish to diseases like PKD and it is felt it would devastate the entire ecosystem  along the river.