Details of tar ponds cleanup to be released next month

By Steve MacInnis
Cape Breton Post
Fri. Jan. 21, 2005

Sydney - All will be revealed Feb. 3.

That was the comment Thursday from a number of authorities attached to or interested in the cleanup of the toxic tar ponds when asked by reporters where an expected mobile incinerator would be located to burn the contaminated sludge. "The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia will soon release the project description which will provide details of every aspect of the cleanup," said Parker Donham, spokesperson for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency which is the cleanup projectís team leader.

Donham said such details, which are contained in some 200 pages, are scheduled for release Feb. 3 which will be followed by a month-long public consultative process.

A CBC Radio report Thursday suggested the incinerator will be located at the former Victoria Junction coal preparation plant. The location is in an area of relatively low population and can be accessed by both rail or road. The site is close to a golf course and the islandís only university.

Donham and others contacted Thursday for comment about the report would only say details will be released next month. "The project document is far more detailed than most other projects," said Donham, adding his agency has been under a lot of pressure to ensure all the information is accurate. "There certainly wonít be a lot of surprises in this document," he said, noting the bulk of information has already been posted on the agency Web site and others.

He said the public process will include open houses and residents of the area will be encouraged to offer comment on all aspects of the $400-million project.

Incinerating a portion of the 700,000 tonnes of toxic waste at the site has been greeted with stiff opposition by many who feared a mobile incinerator would be located on site, which is in the heart of downtown Sydney.

Marlene Kane, a community activist who leads the charge against incineration, said Thursday the government will be hard pressed to find any suitable location for a mobile incinerator. "This is not a safe or reliable technology," she said.

Coun. Vince Hall, whose area includes the preparation plant, said he was reserving comment until the final project details are released. "I believe there has been enough politics and inflamed rhetoric to keep us debating this project for another 100 years," he said, adding what is needed now is healthy dialogue. "We need to approach this project cautiously and I think we should allow the agency to unfold details of the plan which will then give me the opportunity to more fully consult and gauge the reaction of residents of Grand Lake Road," he said.

Bill Pembroke, president of the New Waterford and Area Fish and Game Association, said he also was declining comment until all the details are released. He said he wasnít interested in muddying the waters at this point over speculation which may not prove true.

It will likely be two to three years before the cleanup will begin since the project must first receive approval from a federal regulatory agency which must decide whether the cleanup is subject to a full panel environmental assessment or an environmental review.