Hamm rejects full review of tar ponds cleanup
Environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio is calling for
a full panel review of the cleanup, which would
involve an outside expert.
Premier favours internal study
By MATT HUNT GARDNER
SYDNEY - Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm says the province doesn't support a
full-panel review of the process to be used to clean up Sydney's tar ponds and
coke ovens sites.
"This piece of geography has been studied more than any other single piece of
geography of which I am familiar," he said.
"I'm in favour of a full environmental review, not a full panel assessment."
Sydney's two toxic tar ponds, covering 32 hectares in the downtown core, and the
nearby 72-hectare coke ovens site are the result of 100 years of steelmaking
under private and public ownership.
The chemicals that remain are a mixture of heavy metals like lead and arsenic
and the tar ponds' 700,000 tonnes of sludge, which contain contaminated
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
There are 300,000 tonnes of sludge at the coke ovens.
In April, the province announced it would contribute $120 million to the cleanup
of the sites.
The federal government said it would kick in $280 million.
According to the provincial agency in charge of the cleanup, the worst
contaminants will be dug up and burned in a mobile, high-temperature PCB
The other contaminants at the sites will be treated and capped underground.
On Nov. 15, consultants AMEC Earth and Environmental will deliver to the Sydney
Tar Ponds Agency a new draft of the technical definition of work to be done.
Representative Parker Donham said if the agency doesn't see any problems, the
draft will be sent to Ottawa for approval.
He said that likely sometime in January, the definition will be released to the
Residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality would have a month to point out
any potential environmental effects of the cleanup that the report might have
Mr. Donham said the federal government would then decide what type of review is
necessary - a screening by government, a more extensive comprehensive internal
review or a full panel review conducted by an appointed expert.
The premier said the province will push for a comprehensive study.
"I personally have been urging our federal partners to move with haste," Mr.
"The examination and the analysis of the tar ponds and coke ovens is well
documented. There have been over 900 public meetings on this issue. It's time
to get moving."
But Sydney environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio, who sparred with the premier after
the event, said a full panel review is warranted.
Mr. Marcocchio said the technology chosen by the two levels of government won't
adequately clean up the sites.
He said he'd rather the government move forward with methods recommended by the
Joint Action Group, a community and government group that studied ways to clean
up the sites after the initial attempt to incinerate the sludge in the Tar
"The only level of assessment that can address broader issues, including
alternatives, is a full panel review," he said.
"Whether that can change the focus of this remains to be seen."
Mr. Marcocchio said the province has created a situation in which residents
can't help but want the cleanup to be over and done with.
"The community has lost its interest because this has been dragged on
endlessly," he said.
"How do you expect the citizens of the CBRM to take (the cleanup) seriously when
they engaged in a six-year process that at the end of the day the provincial
government said it was going to choose to ignore?"
Mr. Donham calls it "consultation fatigue" but says that residents would rather
see the provincial and federal governments go ahead with proven methods, rather
than have the process be bogged down with more needless consultation.