It’s no secret to those closest to me and several loyal readers that I did not like school at all. A story in my latest book “Let Nothing Go To Waste” touches on my final few days of grade twelve, and my non-attendance at graduation. The majority of my reflections of school now remain positive. It was a building where I discovered and worked at my craft and trade.
My old school is likely headed for demolition. The property did get some interest but apparently that deal fell through. It’s down the hill from my elementary school, Frank H. MacDonald, which is still open and was recently renovated. The schools are located off the highway towards Antigonish, Nova Scotia after New Glasgow. I’ve been researching a story of potential environmental pollution that was allegedly taking place for the entire life of the school in and around the bus garage located behind the property. It is alleged that oil, fuel and many other deleterious substances were dumped into garage and tap drains in and behind the garage.
What is left of the school is an eerie sight on a quiet Saturday morning. It’s like an abandoned toxic waste site.
Some outside equipment from my days of classes remain. Relics of recreation days and physical education classes of the past. My pics of the soccer field did not turn out good. This pic below, was passable.
I obtained permission from the municipality to walk the grounds. While none of the doors were open, I still would not have been able to walk in through the building anyways. I was able to get a few pics from the outside looking in.
There there is this odd sighting…
On the days I drove to school, I parked as close to the entryway as possible. That entryway is at the far end of this pic, close to the road. When the final buzzer rang, I ran like hell to get to the car and beat all the buses out to the highway.
All the way through elementary and high school, I was never comfortable drinking the water, and felt sick washing my hands in it. I remember when Frank H. MacDonald School had to deal with water advisory because of fecal contamination. So in addition to the pipes being toxic, there was allegedly a routine of daily pollution happening at the bus maintenance garage. Multiple sources over the years that I cannot name have told much of the same stories about substances being dumped into the drains. Some substances were allegedly taken out back to be dumped directly into Sutherland’s River.
I filed a Freedom of Information Request through Nova Scotia Environment seeking potential records of any reports of pollution. After a few weeks I was advised that no records existed and have not pursued the request further. Looking at the sewage treatment area behind the garage, something seems a bit off. While I appreciate this is water that has settled over the years, this is what I suspect a pond near Chernobyl looked like a few days after the nuclear disaster in 1986. Come to think of it, the appearance reminds me of certain antifreeze brands.
When the buildings are finally torn down, any potential remediation should be addressed. Has the land and water been polluted all of these decades while thousands of people passed the halls of the respective schools? Why do no records of any concerns exist? I figured with so many people telling the same stories, there would be something on paper, somewhere.
A twenty-minute drive from East Pictou is the now closed Boat Harbour treatment facility. A cursory google search will turn up the detailed history of how the pulp and paper industry was permitted to pollute the air and waterways along the Northumberland Strait area for decades. That same search should educate others on how the determination and hard work of the Pictou Landing First Nation helped move the eventual closure of Boat Harbour forward to a reality.
Sutherland’s River is close to incredible coastline and waterways. If those waterways were compromised on the East Pictou property, remediation must be carried out.
Photos are Copyright 2021 Dann Alexander and Frogsong Productions.