Tar ponds cleanup hinges on cost-sharing, premier says |
'We have our money set aside'
By JENNIFER STEWART
Nova Scotia is encouraged that the federal budget reconfirmed Ottawa's
commitment to the Sydney tar ponds cleanup, Energy Minister Cecil Clarke said
Mr. Clarke said the project will cost about $400 million and he hopes Ottawa
will cover its fair share.
"With this critical step behind us, we look forward to concluding negotiations
with the federal government on a cost-sharing arrangement in the near future."
Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday that Ottawa will put $4
billion over 10 years into cleansing contaminated sites across Canada.
Of that figure, $500 million will go to sites that are a shared
federal-provincial responsibility, with the tar ponds identified as a priority.
Mr. Clarke, speaking at a Sydney news conference on behalf of Ron Russell,
minister responsible for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, confirmed the province
set aside funding five years ago for a cleanup that will focus on the tar
ponds, coke ovens and steel plant.
"Funding already set aside . . . will enable the province to participate in a
joint cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens on a 70-30 basis with the federal
This breakdown - 70 per cent federal, 30 per cent provincial - has a sound
legal, factual and historical basis, Mr. Clarke said.
Ottawa owns major parts of the tar ponds and coke oven sites, the minister said,
and 85 per cent of PCBs on site are in the federal portion of the tar ponds.
He said the worst contamination, a 25,000-tonne underground deposit known as a
tar cell, was created during the period that Ottawa owned the coke ovens, from
The province's $120-million contribution would be more than enough to clean up
its portion of contaminated land in the Muggah Creek watershed, Mr. Clarke
"Our preference would be to partner with the federal government in a joint
"However, we have not ruled out the option of proceeding on our own for the next
phase if we are unable to agree on a cost-sharing arrangement in the near
Premier John Hamm expressed similar feelings of impatience in Halifax Thursday.
"I'm hoping in the very near future to be able to ink an agreement and move
forward with the federal government, on a 70-30 split, that will result in the
complete remediation of the coke ovens and tar ponds," Mr. Hamm said.
"We have our money set aside, we're ready. We can ink that deal today."
Nearly 10 months have passed since the community's Joint Action Group submitted
cleanup recommendations to the two governments, Mr. Clarke said, and Sydney
residents are growing more anxious every day.
University College of Cape Breton president John Harker asked the minister about
possible delays owing to a federal environmental assessment of the project.
But Mr. Clarke quickly put any worries to bed by speaking in favour of "a
simplified, expedited assessment."
He said the province wants a strict deadline enforced and reiterated Mr. Hamm's
earlier commitment that "one way or another, this government is determined to
see a cleanup plan in place within the very near future."