On the contrary, JAG failed its own mandate
Letter to the editor from Bruno Marcocchio
Cape Breton Post
Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004
Dan Fraser’s letter (Once the process got rolling, progress toward cleanup
was rapid, Jan. 31, 2004) was a testament to how disingenuous Dan Fraser and
his leadership was during his tenure as JAG chair. There was hardly a point
made by him that was accurate.
Characterization of the waste and the full extent of the contamination are
still unfinished. As Edward Furimsky pointed out in an article in
Environmental Management in 2002 an extensive sampling program must be
undertaken in the community to determine the full extent of the
contamination. JAG did none of this. In addition the PCB contamination in
the pond is still not completed. The province halted the complete testing
before JAG got underway and was never completed by JAG. In fact they ignored
the largest 30,000-ton PCB hotspot and did not cost its removal. They fully
intended to dilute it to below 50 parts per million by testing it in 500 to
1000 ton batches and then burning it, disregarding the health impacts of
such a dangerous practice. JAG also refused to characterize the extent of
the pollution plume that they outlined moves into Whitney Pier west of the
coke ovens. The radioactive leachate that comes from the dump and onto the
coke ovens was also ignored.
If he was not deliberately misleading in his description of hydrogen
reduction he learned nothing about the technology. It is not an incineration
technology; you cannot burn anything without oxygen. It produces no
emissions, which is what makes it inherently safe to the surrounding
community. It works for both the coal tars and PCB in the pond without the
need to ignore the real risks by diluting the PCB to “acceptable” but
Representatives from Eco Logic who supply the technology were in Sydney
recently and pointed out that they can complete the job for the same money
and in the same time as the JAG option 3 for the cleanup of the ponds. Mr.
Fraser has been told repeatedly that with the thermal desorption (under
cover) to concentrate the pollutants as the first step of the process the
hydrogen reduction can easily handle the waste in a timely fashion. Why he
persists in maligning this Canadian technology is hard to comprehend.
Perhaps he never understood that doing no additional harm to our community
is the first priority for a cleanup.
Considerations of the impacts on the community were systematically ignored
by all the proposals JAG brought forward. Incineration close to people
would be disastrous and is unnecessary. Two new 60 foot high toxic landfills
at the coke ovens that the JAG proposed in their plan is unacceptable and
Mr. Fraser takes credit for federal and provincial infrastructure projects,
and implies that the downturn in employment in the area is because JAG has
ended. Closing the JAG office did not create a blip on employment
The bloated secretariat failed miserably to do the task set out before them.
Despite a laudable commitment by many volunteers, including local members of
the Sierra Club of Canada, JAG accomplished nothing in seven years save to
stall any action.
Mr. Fraser’s claim that the Sierra Club of Canada worked closely with the
mayor to put an end to the JAG partnership is a bizarre backhanded
compliment. Sierra Club of Canada has worked tirelessly, both locally and
through our Ottawa office to ensure that the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds
stays on the government’s agenda. The recent speech from the throne is
evidence of this ongoing commitment. Unlike Dan Fraser, the Sierra Club
embraces the Martin government’s commitment to innovative environmental
technology. The Eco Logic zero discharge domestic Canadian technology should
be demanded for Sydney, rather than the dirty old methods of burn and bury.
The Sierra Club of Canada has and will continue to engage all levels of
government to find a safe, effective, viable, transparent and socially
responsible solution to Canada’s worst hazardous waste site. Perhaps Mr.
Fraser’s paranoia stems from the fact that we intend to find solutions
embodied in the JAG mission statement; a mission that JAG has failed utterly
to deliver. Those of us that want a safe, effective speedy resolution to
the contamination will continue to find ways to work toward our common
A reality check will show Mr. Fraser that JAG has failed on every principle
set out in its mission statement. His disingenuous attacks on the
messengers -those of us that are prepared to say the JAG emperor is wearing
no clothes- is nothing more than self serving rationalization.
Sierra Club of Canada, Sydney