February 6 & 7: T. Berto

February 6 & 7: Chugging

T. Berto


The Speaker


The Speaker: That’s what we called it. Chugging – or chugga-ing.

You see you live next to one for so long, you get to know the signs.
When they blasted through the back fields, well, that was 17 years ago now – oh sure we were compensated, but who knew what it was gonna be like to live so close to one?

All the policies, and problems. Well, we never.

Anyway. You can always tell. You hear that. It’s like a big “chugga-chugga” – and then it echoes. It’s like your ear is on a giant’s stomach. Chigga chugga-chugga.

And he’s not happy with his dinner. Like it’s coming back on him. Well then you know it’s time.Course there are a bunch of other signs – and not just sounds. You see the big pickups driving up and down the service road – something that took another acre from the back yard as well, thank you much Petrosoft – or the crews walking up and down, clearing brush, well you know that something’s up.

But’s it’s the chugging that’s the worst, or at least the most tell-tale. You’ll hear refractory ‘pings’ all day as they say – especially in summer when the pipe heats up under the sun, but that’s just apparently an expansion in the metal that you hear. No cause for alarm.

But the chuggs, “a catastrophic loss of pressure cascade” as we’ve found out they’re really called. Although they’ll never tell us. They’re not that loud, and they’re real, ya know, low. You know, like I said. Like a giant’s gut. So late at night when you’re sleeping, you’ll not only hear one, but you’ll also, feel it, while you’re in bed. Nothing gets me up faster.

It didn’t take too long to put it all together. After they raised the pressure on the pipe – because the dilutant was too expensive – as they said – more likely toxic, if you ask me – but no one ever did – well, that’s when we first heard them. And then you’d read about it. Or when you could still get some real news – that there’d be a burst upstream or downstream.

Chugga chugga chugga…. Burst.

They’d be far as just two or three county lines, farther, and well, we can’t hear ‘em.
Closer, they’d be way louder. The louder, the scarier. Oh sure, worse comes to worse, if you had a burst, they’d come get you out and put ya up somewhere for 6 months or so. But when you came back, well you’d never trust your land again would ya? I mean we don’t live off the land, for like all our food and all, but hell, we sure like to live on it, if ya know what I mean. I mean why bother living here, if it isn’t for the land?

And sure they’re gonna say it’s an all clear.
But really?
How you ever gonna feel good about getting a glass of water from the well after that?
Or letting little Benjie play in the backyard? On the grass?
Would you trust their tests?
I sure wouldn’t.

So, god forbid and touch wood that it wasn’t at yours directly.
But they sure were close.
We didn’t always know at first.
There’d a local road closed, and you’d notice.
“Oh, that’s odd”
And then exits off the highway you couldn’t take for a year for so after, and again.
So, you’d be down to the county office and sure enough there’s some tiny notice on the board that yeah, Wellington Concession 34 had a “minor incident”. So you’d look for where the roads were off, and other signs, – and well, you’d have to be an idiot not to put it all together after that.

Sometimes you’d see them, Petrosoft, wrapping this giant, like, bandages around the pipe, and you’d think, well jeez, isn’t that second-rate? Shouldn’t those folks there be worried?
I mean no one really likes the pipe, but at least if we have one can’t we have one that looks like it’s solid? Giving us the, ya know, illusion of safety?
It’s like they’re trying to scare us.

And then after the terrorism laws passed and they’d us less and less if there was one. No more posting at the office. No mention on any news at all.

But we knew by then.
Knew what to do.

If you heard one, you’d call Lester and Jean, Brian and Stacey, and Gary and Kevin. They’d call theirs, and that’d be enough to get the ball rolling.

Oh yeah they tried to make some ape-shit-crazy laws about us not talking to one another about it – like to what purpose? But we don’t need to talk about it at all. Really.
I mean I get Gary on the phone – well if I even get him at 5 am, but like if his phone rings then he know exactly what’s the scoop. And if it’s like at another time, well, I just say “chigga chugga” into the phone and he knows. Hangs up, we all got work to do.

They say it’s illegal to build a berm, or any “other construct of containment” around a pipe. Well ok. But what if I’m putting up a line of straw bales to keep the frigging deer out of my roses? Or the salt water from the service road off a petunia beds? Eh? You better be pretty freakin’ tough if you wanna take on the gardeners of Canada. Just watch it buddy.

So we got three barns always with bales ready. I mean that’s just us four on County 17. Gary and Kevin got another bunch at the corners, and between tractors and earth movers, we’re pretty set. I can get a five foot wall on both sides put up in four hours. It may not hold forever, but it gives us time to bet some earth backed support in the first few hours. Problem with a wall is you gotta have a spillway. The shit’s gotta go somewhere. To the west, it goes for 8 properties until it hits the conservation lands. Lord knows what’ll happen there. A battle amongst themselves in Ottawa no doubt.

And we’re at 14 properties to the east fully contained. From there it goes directly into 17 mile Creek.

And I know, that’s a horrible, horrible place for it to go.
That’s the town of Moffat and Brucedale’s drinking water.
And that will hurt a lot of people.
But maybe that’s what needs to happen.
Someone needs to take care of this.
If it’s just going to keep going on forever, well then it’s eventually gonna burst.
It’s inevitable.