Incineration trust poisoned
By Elizabeth Beaton
Cape Breton Post - Weekend Feedback
Sat., Mar. 12, 2005
As a resident of Cape Breton
Regional Municipality I
wo'uld like to register my
concerns about the proposed
use of incineration at Victoria Junction
to destroy the toxic waste from the
tar ponds sludge. I also would like to
register my strong objection to any
incineration of toxic substances at
any place and at any time.
The reason is the human error factor
I repeat the summarized statement
to me in 2004 by Walter van Veen,
consulting engineer during the Joint
Action Group process: "No matter
what the quality of the technology, one
human error can cause serious damage
and probable loss of life. It's like a
Incineration is even more an issue
of public trust than of correct technology.
Can the public trust the operator
to shut down safely and fully
inform the public if there is some
failure in the technology?
More to the point, can the government
be trusted to enforce safety regulations
in case of a breakdown?
Unfortunately recent experience in
our area shows that there is good reason
for a lack of public trust. The Cape
Breton regional municipal incinerator,
located in a residential and fast
food area on Grand Lake Road near
the community of Whitney Pier, has
not operated properly and safely for
three of the past four years. The operator,
CBRM, has not acted with integrity nor
has the provincial government
enforced the regulations.
CBRM haq finally admitted this
lapse with the requirement to shut
down the operation by the end of 2005.
Still, one municipal councillor has
persisted in declaring that it is a
"perfectly good incinerator". We have to
question both the integrity and the
intelligence of our municipal government,
but just as important we have to
question the imperative of money in
continuing incineration. Worse, the
work of Marlene Kane in proving that
the incinerator was not working properly
was ignored and disparaged by
CBRM the past several years.
People of this area may not comprehend
the intricacies of incineration
technology (I certainly don't).
They may not fully articulate their
understanding of public trust.
But they certainly do understand that
arrogance found in the failure to
respond to the serious concerns of
residents leaves them the option of
removing from office the politicians
who have in effect put them in
I am urging the federal government
to consider the consequences of forcing
a potentially dangerous technology
on a constituency that has declared
emphatically and with good reason
that it does not want it.
One way for government to act
responsibly is to have a full panel
review of the cleanup plan. Another
way is to listen carefully to the people.
Money will continue to be a factor
in the demands of consultants,
contractors and sub-contractors to use
incineration. Government may be
tempted to look upon this exercise as
economic development. It is the same
motivation that placed the toxic problem
in our back yards in the first instance.
Elizabeth Beaton, PhD, teaches at
Cape Breton University