Donna Belanger, right, with other supporters during a public awareness campaign to clean up Boat Harbour. Submitted
OUT AND ABOUT BY DONNA BELANGER
Another Lobster Carnival has come and gone, and I have to admit, I really enjoyed this one. I managed to get into town for the nighttime airshow, the fireworks, the daytime airshow, the parade, the antique car display, and just enjoyed eating in town, sitting on the patios and people watching. The Pictou Lobster Carnival committee did a fantastic job this year, and many thanks to Sharon's Place for financing the amazing fireworks display.
Fantastic weather probably had a lot to do with my enjoyment, and the fact that the pulp mill was not blowing into town the whole weekend. It was nice to have a reprieve from the blanket of pollution that normally plagues the downtown core. This brings me to another reason I was in town this weekend, and that was to collect signatures on a petition asking the government to monitor and enforce current standards on industry regulation, pertaining to the pulp mill.
There is a grassroots movement in Pictou County, of people who are tired of complaining about the pollution and nothing is ever done. About a year ago, Matt Gunning and Paul Gregory started a Facebook page called Clean Up the Pictou County Pulp Mill, currently boasting over 4,000 members. Their mission is NOT to close the mill, but to pressure the government to enforce their own emission controls and clean up the mill and its poisonous emissions. The site is full of information, links, statistics, photographs and personal stories from people who are literally sick from the poisonous fumes.
Recently, following the effluent leak from the mill affecting Boat Harbour, there was a blockade erected by the Pictou Landing First Nations, because the leaky pipe was on their sacred burial ground. The Clean Up the Mill group came out in droves to support the natives of Pictou Landing, and this formal protest got the ball rolling for further action. In late June, the group staged a public awareness campaign and protest in front of Peter MacKay's office on East River Road. This was followed by an information and affirmative action float in the Westville Canada Day parade, letting the public know that yes, you CAN do something.
The Lobster Carnival seemed to be the next logical step; lots of people gathered in the place that normally experiences so much of the odorous pollution from the mill. Teams were sent out with clipboards to collect signatures on a petition which they plan to present to the government, demanding action. As one of these petitioners, I was amazed at how many people actually crossed the street, or gathered and waited in line to sign. There were many supporters, even more positive comments, and it felt good to be able to do something, instead of just complaining. Of course there were a few negative comments as well, but the support far outweighed the detractors. One of the most inane comments I heard all day was that "the emissions from the mill were far worse 40 years ago, what we have now is so much better!" Pollution was not right 40 years ago, and it is still not right. It is killing tourism, it is killing businesses, and it is killing people with high rates of respiratory illnesses and cancers in Pictou County. It is time to make a change, and only WE can do that, one person at a time. You can find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/545965902107532/ or at: cleanthemill.com
Donna Belanger is community correspondent for The News.