SANDY COVE, NL – For eight years, Harrison White has devoted himself to seeing Sandy Cove’s out-of-use fish plant get demolished and cleared away.
On Tuesday, Nov. 28 in a packed kitchen with 10 other men, he moved one step closer to meeting that goal.
“When that budget comes down in the spring, we would like to have a slice of that money,” White told attendees around the table. “We’ve been at this for eight years; now it’s time to get this cleared and gone.”
Along with White’s fellow Sandy Cove Harbour Authority members, St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows MHA Chris Mitchelmore, Dwayne Cull, the representative for Long Range Mountains MP Gudie Hutchings, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff members Boyd Collier and John Doody made their way down to the White household.
White gathered them together in his kitchen in hopes of getting some definitive answers about the Sandy Cove wharf, which he has spent years passionately fighting for.
Major safety concern
A recent hazardous assessment by the DFO revealed the urgency of getting the wharf’s former plant and storage building taken down.
The report revealed traces of asbestos in the plant’s roof shingles and collapsed rubble, as well as possible traces of lead paint.
DFO area manager John Doody says the exact quantities of these hazardous materials could not be identified, as the buildings were determined too unsafe to enter.
“There’s a renewed sense of commitment to removing these buildings because of the major safety concern,” said Mitchelmore. “Outside structures have collapsed, flooring has collapsed.
The DFO wharves are there, and with both the recreational and commercial fishery, people need to pass by these structures.
“With the amount of activity that goes on at this wharf, it’s a real safety concern.”
Since its closure in 2009, the abandoned fish plant and storage building along the Sandy Cove wharf has been a constant eye sore from Harrison’s kitchen window.
Now knowing the extent of its danger, White’s worry and stress has only increased.
“In the morning I sit and look through the window and it hurts me every morning to see that plant,” White said. “We got to get rid of it because it’s dangerous.
“I’m frightened to death for that cove; I’m frightened to death for the kids that go near it.”
Everyone in attendance agreed that ensuring funding is available to demolish and dispose of the plant is top priority for the next fiscal year.
Doody says meetings have already been held with government officials and steps are in place to identify this demolition as a project for the next fiscal year.
If the project is approved, a public tender will go ahead to get a contractor who can safely dispose of the building and its hazardous materials.
“From our perspective, it’s got to be done right,” said Doody.
Dwayne Cull felt these discussions showed promise.
“I got a good feeling there’s going to be something put in place to get this done,” Cull said. “The political will is there; the boys are here at the table with us. It’s now just a matter of the ducks lining up. “
The gentlemen also discussed future possibilities for the Sandy Cove wharf, particularly the need for a new groundfish processing plant on the Northern Peninsula.
“We all recognize that the fishery is in transition, and there are opportunities for us to look at in the long term,” said Mitchelmore. “Once those structures are gone, who knows what kind of investment could happen for the future of Sandy Cove.
“If we can prove that things can be successful, the investments will come.”
Throughout the meeting, one constant theme remained.
As the prospects for future work on the Sandy Cove wharf grew stronger, many stated their admiration and gratitude for Harrison White’s devotion to the project and his community – without which, even the proposed disposal of the abandoned plant may not have come to fruition.
“Without a persistent leader or advocate to get things done and advance your community, you will not achieve success,” said Mitchelmore. “Harrison and your [Harbour Authority] committee have stuck with this and now we are moving forward.
“The community of Sandy Cove has gotten a lot of investments in the area because Harrison doesn’t mind picking up the phone. We need more Harrison Whites in our communities.”