Tors Cove residents want questions answered before seal processing plant gets go ahead

·3 min read
Ar n-oilean Resources wants to turn the former fish plant in Tors Cove into a seal oil processing plant. (CBC - image credit)
Ar n-oilean Resources wants to turn the former fish plant in Tors Cove into a seal oil processing plant. (CBC - image credit)

A group of citizens in Tors Cove is raising concerns over a seal oil processing facility which is proposed to take shape inside the former community fish plant.

Ar n-oilean Resources is looking for approval from the Department of Environment and Climate Change to renovate the former fish plant to process seal oil used to make omega-3 oil and produce nutritional supplements.

However, residents say they haven't heard anything in the way of a public consultation or how the proposed business will affect their lives.

"We don't know the whole process, but I worked at a seal plant before and the smell is unbearable," resident Ron Power told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

"You don't want to live close."

The proximity to the plant and the issues of smell don't bode well for resident Raïsa Mirza who lives next door the facility.

Mirza said she bought her home in Tors Cove when she was 22 years old. She said she chose the community because of its beauty and because of the people who live there.


"I work in rural communities all over the world, and one of the crucial things about it is public engagement is key in order to determine success of any project that is happening," she said.

"We have gotten absolutely no response around the conservation, the chemicals that will be used, the smell and there's been no socioeconomic assessment to really show us that this is actually going to be beneficial to the community."

Mirza said nobody from the provincial government has visited the community to speak with residents to hear their concerns about the future.

She said residents are worried about the environmental assessment and how it outlines a "high risk for asbestos."

"Asbestos is a carcinogenic product that is air-bound. So all of us residents who live around ... we don't want cancer from this. There should be absolutely no opportunity for carcinogens to be out in the air or in our waters," said Mirza.

"We live right next to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. It's one of the most protected areas for puffins, seabirds and all kinds of animals.… We have had no answers around waste management and septic, where everything is going to go."


Mirza said none of the residents are opposed to developing the former fish plant, but the important matter is giving people the opportunity to ask questions to make sure anything that is developed there won't potentially affect their health.

Ar n-oilean Resources hasn't been available to speak about the project.

In a statement, the Department of Environment and Climate Change said a 35-day public consultation period, which wrapped up on Aug. 20, was held as part of the plant's environmental assessment.

The department said it is now taking extra time to complete the assessment, with a decision expected in mid-September.

"The Department of Environment and Climate Change received a number of submissions during the public consultation period and all questions and concerns that were brought forward are being considered, prior to the minister making a decision," the statement read.

"In making that decision, the Minister shall determine whether further assessment is required or whether the project may be released subject to conditions."

Meanwhile, PC MHA Loyola O'Driscoll who represents Tors Cove, told CBC News he has received a lot of letters surrounding the proposal.

O'Driscoll said he spoke with Environment Minister Bernard Davis about the decision.

"They're looking into the concerns of the residents of the area. I think they got 30 to 40 letters or emails, and some of those concerns, they want to make sure they're addressing them," he said.

"You've got to answer the questions that the people are asking."

O'Driscoll said he has met with some residents and listened to their concerns, and sent emails to others.

He said he would like to see Ar n-oilean Resources hold a meeting with community members to answer questions.

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