Concern for health, water sources highlight Day 3
By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Wed., May 3, 2006
Sydney - Potential harm to human health and water sources was the main focus of
questions posed by a curious public attending Tuesday's hearing, the first
chance citizens had to poke at Sydney's cleanup plans.
Grand Lake Road residents said past adverse effects from Victoria Junction wash
plant on Kilkenny Lake, a back-up water supply for New Waterford, should be a
"red flag" when assessing risk from incineration emissions.
"It's a scientifically proven fact that this site is close enough to impact
Kilkenny Lake, which is upstream from the brook (on the wash plant site)," said
Ron Marman, a resident who sat through each hearing at the Victoria Park
Armouries in Sydney since they began Saturday.
Agency expert Shawn Duncan said data collected on the wash plant's effect on
Kilkenny Lake during operation was included in ecological assessments. It was
determined that the lake wouldn't be at further risk.
"We're confident we can safely operate the incinerator for a three- to
five-year-period," he said.
Marman said Grand Lake Road residents have expressed concern that once all PCB
sludge is destroyed, a permit holder would continue using the facility.
"Can they apply for a permit to run permanently on the site," asked Marman. "How
can you stop someone?"
Frank Potter, acting chief executive officer, said the incinerator is a
single-purpose incinerator as stipulated in a memorandum of agreement signed by
the federal and provincial governments. It's only to destroy PCBs at the sites.
Marman also brought up the history of flooding at the wash plant site.
Duncan said 100 years of storm events were evaluated when the wash plant was
picked as the preferred site.
"It's well outside the area where flooding historically occurred," he said.
Marman added that beavers build dams in a brook on site, which has caused
flooding in the past.
Agency experts said they are aware of that issue.
Henry Lelandais, another Grand Lake Road resident, asked agency experts why the
wash plant was put on a list of possible sites.
"The VJ wash plant is positioned in a provincial drainage basin," said
Lelandais. "How come the site was selected anyway?"
Duncan said that the wash plant property is outside protective measures dictated
by the province of Nova Scotia.
Dufferin Harper, a lawyer representing residents living near the tar ponds and
coke ovens, repeatedly asked agency experts if the amount of PCBs in the tar
ponds could be underestimated. His question came from a Jacques Whitford study
completed in 1996 that showed five bore holes drilled in the ponds had
unacceptable levels of PCB contamination.
Panel member Wilf Kaiser said the question was moot because PCB pockets
identified on site will be excavated "till (bottom)."
Any remaining PCBs will be solidified and stabilized.
Harper, unsatisfied with the response, asked again if there could be errors in
Kaiser said the agency is confident in its estimations on PCB sediment. He added
that more details will be available on the total mass of PCB sediment at the
sites, information which panel members requested for a future hearing.
Harper followed his question on possible PCB errors with a question about the
chance human health will be at greater risk if the level of PCBs increase.
Brian Macgee, the agency's health risk expert, said increased levels of PCBs
will make no difference "whatsoever" on health risks.
Harper also questioned the timeliness of reporting real-time air monitoring
results to the public during remediation work.
The agency responded that the data needs to be evaluated and validated before
it's dispersed publicly, which takes at least 24 hours in some situations. The
agency also agreed to provide the panel with a list of pollutants that can be
monitored, and the specific device capable of doing the monitoring. The list
will be provided at a future hearing.
Debbie Oullette, former Frederick Street resident, had concerns about the
reliability of hand-held air monitoring when it comes to protecting nearby
homeowners during the cleanup.
"What's between the residents and the workers is a chain-link fence," said
Oullette. "We do swallow contaminants that come off the site."
Workers will be protected with safety gear, but residents won't be, she said.
Agency experts said a prudent monitoring process will be used during the work.
It was said that there's an emphasis on proper use of hand-held air monitoring
equipment to protect workers.
NOTE: Transcripts from each hearing are posted the following day on CEAA's
website on the project's registry (reference number 05-05-8989).
Risky business . . .
Elizabeth May, the chief executive officer of the Sierra Club of Canada, asked
about the human health risk assessment process used by expert Brian Macgee to
identify potential health impacts from the remediation of the Sydney tar ponds
and coke oven sites. Here is an excerpt from that discussion, which includes the
comprehensive answer from Macgee:
Q: Elizabeth May: "I would like to have some information on what you used as a
model and how that risk assessment modeling of vulnerable adults, who are
already suffering from disease, how that was undertaken and if it's publicly
A: "Brian Macgee: First, I would like to clarify that I am personally not aware
that there are vulnerable adults that are any more vulnerable in this community
than any other. I would take that as a premise, but I cannot testify to that
being the case or not. What is certainly true, is that in the conduct of human
health risk assessment, the regulatory agency presents to us the guidance that
we must follow and present to us the toxicological reference values that we must
follow. Be always mindful, their goal is not to protect an average person in
good health, 40-years-old, eats a good diet and doesn't smoke. The entire set of
rules and regulations that we operate under assumes that we have to protect the
most sensitive individual. For instance, when the toxicological reference value
for cancer effect is defined, the government agencies look at all the papers,
both human and animal-oriented studies, they take the study that gives the
answer to your response at the lowest possible dose, they then take that and
model it assuming that there is a straight line linearity at high dose to low
dose, i.e.: they assume that there is no protective effect at low doses, that
there's a risk even at the lowest possible dose of one atom and one molecule,
they then construct a dose response curve. They don't even stop there. They take
the upper 95th competence interval on the data and present that number to us.
So, that number is so protective, that it's designed to protect the most
sensitive individual in any population. That's for cancer."
(He then described
the process for non-cancer risk assessment.)
Cleanup in a click
Web sites that provide information on the joint panel process and the
remediation plan include:
Picture not available - Elizabeth May: