Overlooked 2008

Whether you’re talking about the Cameron Inquiry, Danny William’s ABC Campaign, the province’s Have status, or the rise and fall of gas prices, 2008 was a good year as far as juicy stories and scandals were concerned.

But what else happened?

Here are five stories from the year that appeared faintly—or not at all—beneath the shadows of the big headline news

By Sarah Smellie

Polluting Placentia Bay
Looks like environmental disaster is brewing out at Placentia Bay.

As we all know, Vale Inco was given the go-ahead to use Sandy Pond as a dumping site for waste from their nickel processing plant at Long Harbour (c’mon, everyone joined that Facebook group) but poor old Placentia Bay, which is one of the country’s busiest spots for tanker traffic, is in far more trouble than that, according to environmentalists. An expansion of the Come By Chance oil refinery, a second refinery for Southern Head, and a liquefied natural gas facility at Grassy Point are all in the works, and they all lead to more tankers and more pollution in traditional fishing waters.

In February, the Green Party of Canada called on the feds to take action against what they see as inevitable devastation to the region’s environment.

“The list of environmental concerns related to this area runs the full gamut from poorly-regulated tanker traffic to a plan to discharge waste water from a giant nickel refinery directly into the ocean,” said party leader Elizabeth May.

In March, the FFAW pounded on Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn’s door to let him know that the area’s fishermen aren’t too happy about the prospect of having their livelihoods destroyed. As FFAW president Earle McCurdy told the Sou’Wester, “people see themselves as being driven out of the job that has sustained them all their lifetime.”

Regardless, all proposals seem to be ploughing along uninterrupted.

Green crabs invade
In those same troubled waters, the European green crab, an invasive species which first showed up in August 2007 in the bilge water of a big ol’ tanker, is officially running amok. These nasty, bottom-feeding little buggers, who enjoy destroying habitat and gorging on mussels and scallops, are far more plentiful than anyone thought. The 2008 project entitled Controlling the Green Crab Population In North Harbour, Placentia Bay, carried out by the FFAW, report population levels that FFAW Inshore Director Bill Broderick calls “truly frightening.”

“These green crab numbers could represent a catastrophe,” said Broderick. “Not just for fish harvesters, but for Placentia Bay as a whole.”

Oil rigs exceed oil spill predictions
Keeping up with the theme of sea-borne environmental destruction, the same industry that brought us a decent chunk of this blessed Have status is the same industry that has spilled an estimated 430,000 litres of hydrocarbons into the ocean to date.

In fact, just this year, it was reported that both the Terra Nova and White Rose oil rigs have already exceeded the spillage estimates for their predicted life spans—and then some.

A September report in the Journal of Environmental Assessment, Policy and Management found that Terra Nova has had 34 50-barrel spills since it began operations in 1999, which is more than six times the 5.3 spills of less than 50 barrels that Petro-Canada estimated would flow forth from the site over its 15 year span of production.

White Rose, who accidentally dumped 30 barrels of oil into the Atlantic this very September, has had four spills of less than 50 barrels since its beginnings in 2003. According to the report, that’s almost twice its 15-year lifespan prediction.

Waste incinerators continue to spew
In amongst all the uproar over the curb side recycling delay, the province announced that more than 20 of its old-school, toxin-belching, cone-shaped waste incinerators would remain open for another year, despite a promise to have them all closed by December 31st of this year. Seems everybody needs a little more time to come up with better alternatives.

City and local theatre companies cooperate
Enough with the bad news! On November 5th, councillor Sandy Hickman chaired a meeting with the performing arts community to discuss the city’s study on the need for a mid-size theatre and good things came out of it.

Rabbittown Theatre owner Aiden Flynn tells me that the meeting inspired the Arts Infrastructure Committee, whose goal is to figure out what the city needs when it comes to arts facilities and how to build bigger, more diverse audiences.

“We’re trying to address all the things that are needed in terms of space, be it administrative space, rehearsal space, construction space, whatever. It’s not just performing space that’s lacking,” he says.

He’s also a part of the freshly formed organization of theatre companies, tentatively called the Metro Theatre Alliance. Both committees, he says, have been much needed. He is also optimistic about the Capitol Theatre, reporting that all does not seem to be lost on that front after all.

“We should be seeing some good things all around,” he confirmed.

sarah@thescope.ca