Tar ponds plan quizzed
Panel hearings continue today
By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Mon., May 1, 2006
Sydney - A marathon of questions and answers will continue today as the Sydney
Tar Ponds Agency defends its cleanup plans now under the microscope of an
independent panel assessing any possible environmental impacts.
"We have listened to the community, we have assessed the risks of the various
technologies and we have a good plan and we are confident it will make Sydney a
better place," said Frank Potter, the agency's acting chief executive officer.
"No cleanup solution will satisfy everyone, because even after 650 technical and
scientific reports and 1,000 public meetings, we know that some people will
never agree on a cleanup plan."
Panel members didn't necessarily disagree with the agency's cleanup proposals
outlined in a 90-minute presentation on opening day Saturday. However, the three
did ask some hard-hitting questions that challenged the agency's 16 supporting
experts during the day-long hearing at the Victoria Park Armouries.
Lesley Griffiths, joint panel chair, concentrated her questions on whether or
not the agency can walk away from the project once 25 years of monitoring have
"After 25 years, the site will no longer present a problem," said Potter.
Griffiths, unsatisfied, asked how that would be accomplished.
For several minutes, experts gave answers lacking the amount of certainty
Griffiths wanted to hear. Finally, one expert took control.
"With confidence, we do have the walk-away solution you're looking for," said
Don Shosky, Earth Tech expert and member of the agency's consulting team. Caps
proposed for both the tar ponds and coke oven sites use natural materials like
clay, rocks and topsoil, he said. The containment system will remain and any
remaining contaminants will be stabilized. Although, he said, some future
maintenance may be necessary.
Panel member Louis LaPierre followed Griffiths' line of questions. He asked the
team about the biological degradation process for PAHs and PCBs and if salt
water could infiltrate the tar ponds encapsulation system, described as a low
permeable solid monolith. LaPierre, also asked about the possibility that salt
water would erode the monolith if the two met.
"The reaction between cement and salt water; would it stand up?" asked LaPierre.
The team said that experts are currently reviewing potential impacts salt water
may have on remediation plans for the sites.
LaPierre also asked the team to show if deep aquifers in the coke ovens site are
connected to its contaminated and fractured bedrock.
"It's an important (question)," noted LaPierre.
Shosky said the team will provide a profile of aquifers and bedrock at a future
hearing. He also agreed to search for technologies that may be available to
monitor the underside of the monolith.
Griffiths said she was surprised by one comment Potter made that there is no
acceptable technology for removing contaminants in the bedrock. He said the
contaminants would have to be managed over the long term.
That rationale wasn't included in any of the agency's previous statements or
follow-up comments, said Griffiths.
"We will talk about alternatives and rationales for technologies is important,"
said Griffiths. "You put one forward today."
Panel member William Charles got into some specifics when the topic turned to
transferring contaminated tar ponds sludge by rail to the Victoria Junction Wash
Plant on Grade Lake Road in Sydney.
"I'm interested in knowing where you're going to get the flat cars."
It was an answer the agency was unable to give.
The agency also said it needed time to compare Canadian Council of Ministers of
the Environment guidelines for PAHs against site specific target levels adopted
by the agency to determine safe levels for Sydney's cleanup.
Near the conclusion of the opening hearing, the panel was told that the caps, as
currently designed, couldn't accommodate rooted trees. With just a thin layer of
top soil, it could only handle grass and small shrubs.
Today's hearing will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until about 9 p.m.
Cleanup in a click
Web sites that provide information on the joint panel process and the
remediation plan include:
Picture not available :
From left, Wilf Kaiser, Frank Potter, Gregory Gillis, Shawn Duncan, Brian Magee
and John Walker are members of a team formed by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency to
answer questions posed by members of a joint panel. The sessions will begin at 1
p.m. at the Victoria Park Armouries in Sydney.