The panel has left the building
Report on tar ponds cleanup will be
in governments' hands by July 13: chair
By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Fri., May 19, 2006
Within 55 days, members of an independent panel will wrap-up deliberations and
give their unbiased opinions on how the tar ponds cleanup should proceed.
"We assure you that we have listened intently to the information exchange
throughout the process," said chairperson Lesley Griffiths. "As we close the
public hearings, we do so with a commitment to submit our report to the federal
and provincial ministers on or before July 13."
The deadline keeps with the terms of a joint panel agreement signed in May 2005.
However, it's unknown when that report will be made public.
"It is our understanding that governments will make the panel report available
to the public in due course," said Griffiths. "We trust that the community will
take the report in the context and spirit in which it was intended; that is, to
bring technical and community interests together in a thorough environmental
assessment and to provide recommendations to decision makers eager to see a safe
and effective conclusion to the remediation."
The panel said it wants the community to feel confident the project is getting
an appropriate level of review, discussion and technical scrutiny.
Elizabeth May, member of Sierra Club of Canada, said she feels the panel didn't
get the level of information needed to complete its job.
In fact, May demanded additional hearings be held so the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency
can provide more technical information repeatedly requested by panel members
during the hearings.
May said the agency sidestepped answers to important questions by saying more
details would be available in the final project design.
"I don't know how we're going to avoid a future environmental assessment," said
With panel questions leaning heavily toward full encapsulation of the tar ponds
and coke ovens site, including PCB sediment, May also suggested the agency may
have its project challenged in a courtroom.
She's contacted lawyers who agree that burying PCBs, a banned substance, is in
violation of Canada's Environmental Protection Act.
May said if panel members sign-off on the project as proposed, it would be
"They can reject the project," said May. "They have the power to do that."
Frank Potter, the tar ponds agency's acting chief executive officer, said there
is no "silver bullet" when it comes to cleaning up the sites.
"There are many views," said Potter. "Some of the public have very strong
However, no one wants to delay the project, he said.
"We have a sound plan in place. We have thought it through carefully. We will
get the job done, safely and effectively. That is my commitment to this
The agency will work with federal and provincial regulators as the detail design
is developed, he continued. The agency will also develop performance and
monitoring criteria with help from regulators and consult with the community
through a community liaison committee, open houses, and the agency's website and
newsletter. It will also explore new ways to provide the community with project
"We want to win the trust of all the community," said Potter. "That's our
During Griffiths concluding remarks Thursday, she offered the panel's personal
impressions of many individuals, some who attended every hearing.
"We are well aware that many community participants have dedicated hours and
days, and sometimes weeks and months, of personal time to this endeavour, with
no monetary reward," she said. "We appreciate that you are motivated by a sense
of responsibility to your families, neighbours and community, and to generations
to come, and we commend you for exemplifying both civic responsibility and