After seven years and $68 million, cleanup stillborn
Letter to the editor from Bruno Marcocchio
Cape Breton Post
Saturday, Jan. 24, 2004
Now that the din has died down from the self-congratulation at what a huge
success the JAG process was, it is time for some reflection on what the
results of the seven year process amounts to. Are we any further ahead
than in 1996 in finding a solution?
Sadly, it is clear
now that nothing of substance has been accomplished save a seven year
delay in funding the clean up of Canada’s worst hazardous waste site.
The federal and provincial governments have not yet agreed on a funding
formula or a cleanup plan and are barely speaking to one another about
either. CBRM mayor John Morgan rightly
points out that the JAG process has determined neither what technologies
are acceptable nor what ones are unacceptable .
The fuzzy recommendations that were the (anti-)climax of the JAG process have
not been acted upon by government. The technology demonstration that was
supposed to be happening now has been abandoned, and the community that was
supposed to be central to the decisions is completely excluded (as is the media).
The Environmental Assessment that was supposed to be completed by
April 2004 has yet not begun. In short, we are back to square 1, and
another 65 million has gone up in smoke with not a teaspoon of sludge
The offsite burning or co-burning that JAG favoured does not exist as
a viable option. The Point Aconi power plant has been ruled out by the local
community, by local MP Mark Eyking, and by Nova Scotia Energy
minister Cecil Clarke. The US will not accept the waste for co-burning because of the PCB
content and the Brookfield cement kiln is not interested.
How could so much time and energy have gone into a recommendation
that does not exist as a real option?
Ignoring human safety by moving the waste back to the top of the hill is
the second and third choice that JAG has proposed. The option favoured by
the JAG consultants Conestoga Rovers, is building one or two new
incinerators at the coke ovens site and creating a huge new toxic landfill
there. This would violate the siting guidelines of the canadian Council of
Ministers of the Environment that were promised, at minimum, by the terms
of reference of the JAG process.
No incinerator can be closer than 1500 meters from homes according to
CCME. JAG and its consultants are prepared to ignore this safety measure,
violating the promise JAG made at its inception to start at the
top of the hill and clean to the bottom.
A safe, cost effective and elegant solution exists to clean up both the PAH
and PCB contaminants. The combination of two technologies, thermal
desorption (that would concentrate the waste by distilling it into a gas
under cover at the ponds) and hydrogen reduction (to break down the
concentrated waste into methane gas and salty water with no emissions) were
largely ignored by JAG. This solution which can completely destroy all of the
waste onsite without harm to the surrounding community, must be employed if
people's health is to be protected.
With JAG dead and gone (except for the haunting echoes of self-
congratulation), we have to start again to find the political will and
adequate funding to safely clean up Canada’s worst hazardous waste site.
Sierra Club of Canada, Sydney