A Whitney Pier scene in February 2002. Some areas
of the community have been blanketed by dust this
Pier homes blanketed by coal-like dust
By MATT HUNT GARDNER
SYDNEY - Sooty dust has been landing on homes in the Whitney Pier area again,
but this time the source is unclear.
Deputy Mayor Jim MacLeod, who lives on Mathilda Street, has complained four
times about the dust to the provincial Environment Department. He said he's
found dust on his house and has had calls about it from people who live on
nearby Ferris Street.
"It's definitely coal dust," Mr. MacLeod, said. "It's fine and a black-greyish
colour. I'd know it anywhere.
It's not the first time this has happened in Mr. MacLeod's neighbourhood, near
the former Devco coal pier.
Last winter, provincial inspectors charged the pier's stevedoring company, hired
by Emera to move coal and coke to Nova Scotia Power plants from cargo ships,
after dozens of homes were coated with a black dust called petcoke, a byproduct
of petroleum refining.
The incident occurred in February 2003 after a cargo ship unloaded the coal-like
product, overfilling a hopper on the coal pier in the process.
The stevedoring company, Logistec, pleaded guilty and was fined $12,000. The
firm was also required to provide outdoor cleaning supplies to affected
On Thursday, when Mr. MacLeod and several residents contacted Logistec's Sydney offices about the new dust, the company blamed Provincial Energy Ventures, which loads coal onto ships and rail cars at the nearby Sydney Steel wharf.
Provincial Energy Ventures will spend $10 million upgrading the wharf over 10
years. Those upgrades have already included an automated dust control system
and real-time dust monitors.
"To date, we've had no dust leaving our property, according to our monitors,"
Ernie Thrasher, president of petroleum operations, said from the company's head
office outside Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mr. Thrasher said coal dust generally only travels 500 metres before falling to
the ground. He said he doubts coal dust could travel 1.5 kilometres to the
"We're following up on the complaints," said Environment regional manager
Lawrence MacDonald. "We're meeting with the complainants and will take it from
Around the same time Mr. MacLeod first noticed dust at his house, the week of
Aug. 9, the tar ponds agency was recording elevated levels of particulate
matter in the air on Frederick Street, fairly close to Mr. MacLeod's
The total suspended particulate count recorded Aug. 13 was 164 micrograms per
square metre. The Nova Scotia objective, according to agency spokesman Parker
Donham, is 120 micrograms per square metre.
The agency received a report from AMEC Ltd. on Thursday that concluded the dust
in the air was most likely slag dust from a nearby road construction site.
Mr. MacLeod says he plans to continue pressing the Environment Department to
find out what is causing the dust and act to stop it.