My parents, Robert and Ethel Kerns, bought a farm in 1946 that is located outside a little town called Wimborne in Central Alberta. About 1967, Mom started raising purebred Arabian horses.
Our first devastating experience with the gas/oil industry was the sulphur plant about five kilometres east of the farm. Sulphur emissions covered the pasture. The mares consumed the grass, which caused abortions, stillbirths and weak foals with a grey discharge coming from their lungs. Their fetlocks never developed properly and they couldn’t stand up or walk right. They were born dying and crippled.
It was apparent to us that the sulphur plant was doing this, but our family veterinarian discouraged Dad from legal action due to lack of proof. My parents did complain, however, but the oil and gas industry spent millions of dollars fighting the little guy–and still do.
In the late 60s or early 70s, the Pincher Creek incident also occurred. When poisoned farmers and the gas industry went to court, the case ended with a grilling landowner persecution by industry, the health authorities and the judicial system. What little “good” that came out of our complaints and Pincher Creek was the fact that the company in charge built the smokestack higher, so the “killing” emissions went further and were not so concentrated on our land.
That was then. We have since learned much about the effects of gas/oil pollution on mammalian and other life forms. But suppression of all negative effects of industrial pollution has become the order of Canada, and to a certain extent, the US.
The Canadian government has long since sold out our beautiful country for money. The cumulative effects of air, soil and water degradation are now a haunting reality from which there is no escape. Our children don’t even know what “natural” is. Now they never will.
My family’s second nightmare with industrial pollution is far worse and has become so severe that it has taken over our lives.
Our water started turning foul last winter. In a matter of weeks, it was black with oil. We left when I got burnt by H2S when running the kitchen tap. Before that, our family dog and cat died for no apparent reason, and my mother’s horses became so sick that I called a vet. Nothing helped until we moved the animals off the acreage.
We lost everything. All of my family’s money, our work, toil, hopes and dreams. It was worse than coping with health problems as a result of living and bathing in tainted water and the horror of seeing your animals die.
We put up with all that happened and is still happening to us. Still, nothing changes quickly. What has been in place in Canada for so many years is ingrained in our society.
In the meantime, my elderly, handicapped parents do not have years ahead of them, and due to the loss of their new home, are forced to live in a run-down house at their old place. They have no choice!
Outrage at Oil Companies
It has taken a full year of yelling at Alberta Environmental Protection in Red Deer to get officials to acknowledge we have a water pollution problem. We even had the Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board out to our farm. That day, we found dead birds in the yard and yellow scum floating on our dugout. (Last summer, this dugout started bubbling. Gases were coming right to the surface of the water. You couldn’t stand at the edge of it because the gases made you instantly sick!)
The inspectors found hair, fur or fibre in our aquifer; we believe the cause to be dead or decaying rodents. Various agencies have also found unnaturally high levels of gas on our property. When a small grass fire broke out on May 14th, believe me, the fire department was scared!
The Alberta government doesn’t seem to know what to do with us. We have been telling everyone since last February that this place is ready to blow up–not due to eco-terrorism, but because of an unscrupulous industry, a deceitful government and bad economic policy.
Oil Industry Activist
Allan Johnstone is a 69-year-old retired oilfield technologist. After years of field research into the negative effect of gas flaring and venting, he retired from the industry to devote his life to helping others realize the deadly effects associated with these criminally toxic practices.
Johnstone was instrumental in bringing many of the dangers associated with oil and gas refining to the public’s attention during the Alliance Pipeline hearings conducted by the National Energy Board of Canada in 1997 and 1998. Unfortunately, the revelations of this massive document never reached the light of day.
The Ludwigs approached him when they began fighting legal battles with the Alberta Energy Corporation over the devastating effects that “sweet gas” (benzene) and “sour gas” (hydrogen sulphide–H2S and sulphur dioxide-SO2) flaring were having on the health of their family, livestock and the surrounding ecosystem.
Sixty years ago, Johnstone’s family lived in Inglewood beside a British American gas refinery where his dad worked at Turn Valley, next to the H2S flare pits. His father died of massive stomach cancer at the age of 32.
As Johnstone puts it, “There has been a massive cover-up over the years regarding the carcinogenic properties of benzene. Benzene will penetrate human garments, damage all parts of your body, cause cancer and contribute to heart attacks and stroke. Also, human proximity to AC electric power/ electromagnetic waves is a catalyst for benzene ring chemical reactions in the body.”