NDP pushes for information on tar ponds cleanup

Cape Breton Post
Canadian Press
Thurs. Feb. 5, 2009

Halifax - People who live near the Sydney tar ponds should not be kept in the dark about glitches in the $400-million cleanup, the NDP says.

Halifax Fairview MLA Graham Steele said Wednesday there have been setbacks in a few areas, including the cooling pond, but no one informed nearby residents. "Those are not insignificant problems and if they are, the agency has a duty to the public to explain why they consider them to be insignificant," Mr. Steele said after a meeting of the legislatureís public accounts committee. "Silence is the one response that is not adequate."

Kevin MacDonald, CEO of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said none of the problems posed a danger to the public and thatís why residents werenít told about them. "At the end of the day, any construction project will have glitches, and the management of those glitches, the proper management and repair, should be the issue," he said.

Mr. MacDonald confirmed a portion of the lid on the cooling pond had collapsed, but the part that holds contaminants underneath that cover was not affected. He estimated the cost was about $30,000.

He also said the company that built a barrier wall, at the mouth of the tar ponds, used armour stone that did not meet specifications. The agency asked the company to fix it, but the dispute is now in litigation. The committee heard the work could cost as much as $1 million. Another barrier wall, this one on the coke evens site, also did not meet quality control standards.

Mr. MacDonald said the agency is hiring a second communications person, but said even with two people on board, it still probably wouldnít have seen the need to tell area residents about the glitches.

Liberal MLA Manning MacDonald said the residents heís spoken to just want the project done on time and on budget and in an environmentally safe way. "We have a professional team over there that donít have any other agenda, in my opinion, other than to get the job done," the Cape Breton South MLA told reporters. "I know these people. They are local people. They are hiring local contractors and hopefully, they will be hiring more local contractors, more local workers to get the job done."

During the meeting, Kevin MacDonald said he is confident the project will be completed by March 2014 and within the $400-million budget. "Anything less, quite frankly, is just unacceptable," the CEO said.