Saturday, April 29, 2006 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Take incineration off the table

Residents protest plan to burn toxic tar ponds sludge

By GREG MacVICAR

SYDNEY - Stop PCB incineration

That was the message about 25 residents brought to downtown Sydney on Friday as they protested plans to burn 120,000 tonnes of tar ponds sludge - contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - in an incinerator to be built at the abandoned coal-wash plant in Victoria Junction.

"We all agree on one thing - that is take incineration off the table," said Grand Lake Road resident Ron Marman. "There are other methods that would cause a lot less concern in this community."

Mr. Marman lives about two kilometres from the proposed incinerator site. He and Cape Breton regional councillor Vince Hall have, since January, hosted meetings of area residents concerned with the proposed incineratorís proximity to Cape Breton University, a golf course, dairy farm, several bodies of water, homes and businesses.

"Iíve been fighting incineration in this community for 10 years," said Sydney resident Marlene Kane. "We got rid of the municipal incinerator. We donít want another incinerator fired up. We want an alternative that doesnít involve burning PCBs."

The federal and provincial governments have proposed a 10-year, $400-million plan to clean up the tar ponds, the result of a century of steelmaking in industrial Cape Breton.

On Jan. 3 the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency and officials with three environmental firms outlined a new 3,000-page environmental impact statement that proposes stabilizing 580,000 tonnes of sludge on site using hardening agents such as cement powder. And it proposes shipping 120,000 tonnes of sludge contaminated with PCBs and PAHs to Victoria Junction for incineration. Regional council has since unanimously rejected that plan, as has the president of the Cape Breton University Studentsí Union.

Mr. Hall and others have said the agency should back an alternative plan to solidify and cap all the sludge in the tar ponds.

In an earlier interview, tar ponds agency CEO Frank Potter said backing another method in the middle of the environmental assessment process could delay the project by two years.

Mr. Potter said the agency will present alternative cleanup options, including solidifying and capping all the sludge, at hearings starting today by an independent panel reviewing plans to clean up the tar ponds. And he said the agencyís environmental impact statement confirms that method would be safe and effective.

( gmacvicar@herald.ca)