dam the dams part 4

THE CONTRARIAN
DAM THE DAMS – PART 4
Early in the 70’s, Reed, the owner of the Dryden mill and chemical plant, announced a very large plan to build a major pulp mill at Ear Falls, and applied for massive big timber limits to support it, extending far into the north where the big rivers are. Not all that long after that announcement, publicity about the mercury business took a very substantial turn. The focus suddenly turned from chloralkali plants in general, and zoomed in on Dryden.
The appallingly bad quality of reporting in the media storm that followed was truly staggering. Some minor examples, Warner Troyer, a CBC reporter with no technical background whatsoever, wrote a sensationalist book about the evil Dryden mill, which starts out with something like ‘the rusty metal siding on the mill buildings looms over the town’ – actually that siding was asbestos-board, stained by effluent from the mill, not ‘rusty metal’. Shows the quality of his research, he missed a big chance there, could have added asbestos to mercury. A better example, a shot of the mill from across the river, shown literally hundreds of times on CBC television, would talk in ominous tones about toxic wastes while zooming in on a pipe protruding from the river bank in front of the mill, dribbling a stream of foamy-looking liquid. That pipe was the drain from a yard catch basin, the liquid coming out of it was rain water! The actual mill outfalls are huge pipes, underwater. Of course the mercury being lost could have been carried out in a small pail, one trip a week.
I was senior enough among mill staff to have some knowledge, but not so senior to have to worry about confidentiality. Even at my level it was obvious that a well-managed, well-funded public relations program designed to drive Reed into the dirt was underway, although we had no idea as to managed by whom?, and funded by whom?, and why? A single anecdote to illustrate this point —
Reed sponsored an art exhibition, travelling across Canada, and I attended the Winnipeg showing. There was a noisy protest, several dozen university students, dopey kids having fun, I got involved is some such stuff myself in university days. Except one guy, who was older, probably in his thirties, the very articulate and media-savvy spokesman for the group, and presumably the guy orchestrating the whole thing. They were carrying professional-looking signs, and one had to wonder who paid for those. They called a media conference in a sizable room at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and one had to wonder who paid the rent on that. I was told that the same fellow led a similar demonstration of university students on a lark (who was buying the booze?) at all the stops the show made, all across Canada. These demonstrations were each lovingly reported with all the mercury trimmings, over and over again, using media tricks to make a dozen students look like a mob.
Because of the media circus, Reed even went so far as to demolish the chemical plant using the mercury process in favour of an experimental and ultimately unsuccessful process which did not use mercury. The media firestorm continued. The other 10 chloralkali plants continued to operate (and still continue to operate, buying replacement mercury as needed). Being more cost-effective, they drove the experimental, mercury-free Dryden plant out of business.
Finally Reed got the message and announced a cancellation of its expansion plans. It would not be building a new pulp mill, and they withdrew the application for big new northern timber limits. Almost like magic, the media firestorm disappeared, and mercury and Minimata disappeared off the public radar in Canada. More nex

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