Kitimat Cough

It’s week two now in a whole new reality. Where? Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat Modernization Project. Packed into a crowded work camp for the first time in my life, I begin to see a new trend taking place. Build! It’s running out! Build! From the skyscrapers of Dubai to the countless uninhabited new apartments built in China, the powers that be are going for broke.

All around me is an enormous bustle of activity to modernize Rio Tinto’s existing aluminum smelter. The upgrade is immense, the amount of personnel and resources is immense. The resources have been shifted to accomplish a goal, that when completed will lead to further expansion in a town called Kitimat.

My first impression of traveling around this place was the many LNG signs and names of big oil companies on the road crossing the Haisla bridge on the way down to the construction village, along with an election sign that reads “say yes for Kitimat”.

Plans have already been laid out – a plan to develop Kitimat’s existing industrial area, which borders the Kitimat river, and to build in order to export oil and gas… and bitumen.

Will the upcoming vote impact the progress of this new development and selling of what used to be known as the commons? My thought is that it will merely slow down the progress of big oil in the area until they can persuade our government to go their way.

The Rio Tinto Alcan modernization project got the go ahead and the site has two salmon spawning channels running through it. A sign of nature fading away to the progress of industry.

Less than a week ago I was on my way to go fishing, passing the Rod and Gun Club and noticed many people and their laptops talking with a banner reading “Northern Gateway” in the background. It turned out to be an open house put on by Enbridge hosted by John Carruthers among other execs, though I did not witness him firsthand, answering questions from the public.

If I had known what was going on at the time I would have gone inside and asked the questions everyone wants to hear. If a spill is inevitable, and Enbridge isn’t legally responsible to clean it up, and next to no jobs will be created for B.C. residents, why would anyone vote YES on the plebiscite on April 12th?

As more and more people here in camp get a particular sickness, which is dubbed the “Kitimat Cough”, I can only imagine what kind of detrimental effects on air quality any further industrial development would have.

Without any research for high tech ways to economize and control waste and effluent, I can only see Kitimat turning into one of the most polluted areas in B.C. behind Teck Cominco’s lead smelter in Trail.

Last week, one of my co-workers, a 60-year-old man who was in perfect health until the end of March, died from pneumonia. The toxins that exist surrounding this camp are surely responsible for his demise and the weakening immune systems of all workers on the Kitimat Modernization Project site.

Tomorrow is another day at work building industry and trying to get in touch with nature when the work day ends. My only moral comfort is that if I wasn’t here making money being a part of this, someone else would. Furthermore, it’s not as bad as making profit via proxy never having any connection to the land that is being exploited.

Anyone individual living in Kitimat for 30 days prior to the April 12th plebiscite is eligible to vote. Please do so and let your voice be heard.

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