07 October 2012

The "Greater Good" has become the "Greater Greed": Life Before and After Baytex Moved In - StopBaytex.ca

Life Before and After Baytex Moved In

Posted at September 26, 2012 | By : | Categories : Letters | 2 Comments

My Life Before Baytex Moved In

Looking at the title of my letter, it sounds like when people refer to the time as pre-911 and post-911, the point being your life is changed forever.  Damage done, can never be fixed.  Although I’m writing this letter for the Stop Baytex website it’s not something I want to do but as I see it, it’s something I have to do.  People must understand what happens when Baytex moves in.

I lived on a bush quarter about 8 miles north of the town of Donnelly.  I had built myself a modest little cabin in the middle of the quarter in a big spruce patch.  It took a couple of years to put together, depending on materials I could buy or people would give me.  I would tell people, well if you’re going to throw it away, I can use it.  For example, my tin roof probably has 3 or 4 different colours. Suffice to say my wife and I were very happy there.  It was our Paradise, 160 acres of it.  I enjoyed carving out walking trails, they were anything but straight.  I refused to cut down any living tree.  I loved them all so I’d go around them taking out only dead ones.  But what beautiful trails I had.  The place was overrun by moose and deer.  Elk were beginning to move in.  We all got along just fine; even the squirrels became a constant form of entertainment.

Life was good.  A small solar panel provided some lights.  A wood stove kept our small cabin cozy.  Winter months I did a lot of reading often by candlelight.  It was super quiet.  I had a small library in the corner.  I’m trying to paint a picture for whoever reads this to understand where we came from.  Think of it: no power bills, no water bills, no phone line bills, no vehicle bills and no rent.  We were basically retired.  We had little money but didn’t really need much either.  I used to laugh when my wife would walk through the West Ed Mall and say when walking out, there’s nothing I need here.  We had it good folks.

Now Our Life After Baytex

When Baytex moved in, there was quite a flurry of activity.  Numerous wells being drilled.  Drilling sites were being developed, it seemed everywhere around me and I thought, “OK, so our peace and quiet time is over.  At least they’re not drilling on my property and my neighbours are profiting from this, so I’ll just mind my own business.”  After all when oil is found by your place every one must pay the price one way or the other whether whether it comes in the form of more traffic on your once quiet little gravel road or the 24/7 engine noise around you.  So I determined I would just get used to it and make the best of it. After all I was still the master of my 160 acre island.  I was soon to learn that these things would be the least of my problems.

Then the big black tanks at the oil sites increased in numbers, heated to over 100 degrees.  Just free venting in the air.  I’m told this is done to separate the oil from the sand, and helps the oil flow more easily into the tanker trucks.  Now if that wasn’t bad enough, they seem to be introducing different chemicals in the tanks (to speed up the process I’m guessing).  At any rate, we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.  I only know these things by being a human guinea pig or lab rat, whatever you prefer.  When we had made a lot of calls to the ERCB about the awful oil stench, it took a few months then the strong oil stench seemed to be masked by a powerful pesticide smell.  When we complained about this sometime later we were treated to a new experiment this one left us with the odour of a strong detergent of some sort.  By this time, we were leery of complaining again fearing the next new experiment.  Please understand that while all this is going on we are experiencing very strange physical effects such as burning sensation of the tongue and nose sometimes accompanied by headaches and extreme fatigue. This spring while I was still living there, I noticed that if I was outside for 30 minutes or so, all these symptoms would intensify.  So I called health agencies and described my symptoms and our situation.  Some recommended we not go outside and keep our windows shut while others said we should leave the area right away.  We were told later to avoid walking in the bush or grass because it stirs up the chemicals or gases on the ground.  That was it for us.

If that’s the only solution offered by experts we decided we should heed to their warnings and flee.  So on June 1, 2012 we made the painful decision to evacuate.  We took the backseats out of our minivan, put a mattress in, and then threw whatever we felt we needed for camping.  We had a little money saved up but we felt if we took motel rooms we’d soon be broke.  We were fortunate our sons had 5th wheel campers so we could stay in those at times.  I went to see our local MD to see if there was any arrangements in case of evacuation.  They said there was nothing in place for a case like ours.

Because I worked in the McLennan Extended Care Unit for 21 years I had a pension fund which we had to cash in and consequently lost almost half of it through taxes and penalties for withdrawing it prematurely.  But hey, we were able to purchase a used travel trailer in Faust, Alberta.  Where we reside at present is a camp ground which closes Sept 30th for the year and will open again May 1, 2013.  So on the road again until May 1st.  After this experience I have to ask if it’s safe for people in our area to drink the water from a dugout or eat from their gardens or whether hunters should ask themselves if the wild life harvested in this area is safe for consumption.  Gone are our family gatherings and BBQs with grandchildren.

I am one of many families with this sort of story and I encourage them to share theirs openly.

~Andy Labrecque

Comment

  • Caleb west

    September 26, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Ths is so friggen stupid, why would you want to work for baytex? I wonder how long this will go until something happens.

  • DOLORES BASTIEN

    September 27, 2012 at 2:07 am

    wow what a powerful letter, I can’t believe an oil company is not proud of their company name and that they would do anything to save face. I have a son who works in the industry and they are so proud of what they have accomplished by being Environmental Safe that I am appalled thaf Baytex have not been investigated

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Can anyone remember when "for the Greater Good" became "for the richest people"? No? It really did start out as "for the Greater Good" of all the people. Then like most "weapons" it was taken over by the "richest people" to get what they wanted while trampling the rights of everyone else, especially the poorest.

If it wasn't for the fact that there were cheaper, cleaner, more effective ways to do things for that "Greater Good" then there could be a potential basis for these actions. But those days are gone. The "Greater Good" has become the "Greater Greed".