Sierra Club concerned about cleanup plans

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Aug. 14, 2006

Sydney - The Sierra Club of Canada is expressing concern that a joint panel report on Sydney's cleanup plans is contradictory and that important panel recommendations will not be enforced.

Bruno Marcocchio, club member, said the panel operated on the notion that technology considered for the cleanup must be reliable, proven, appropriate and capable of implementation. "Yet they go on to say that solidification and stabilization is not a proven technology," he said, referring directly to comments made in the joint panel report released in July. "There is an inherent contradiction here."

Marcocchio described the current situation with the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency as a "fox back in charge of the hen house again with no oversight. We have grave concerns that it means that human health will not be protected."

During panel hearings held in May, the Sierra Club asked the three-member panel to keep some control over the project until it was demonstrated that the "safe, effective, socially conscious aspects of this proposal had been met," said Marcocchio. "The question that the Sierra Club of Canada is asking is who will be ensuring and holding to account the proponent for the good recommendations that the panel have made. We have no guarantees that any of the concerns that the panel has raised will be addressed."

Federal and provincial environment ministers now have the panel's report and recommendations. The final decision on the project, a joint decision, is expected in December.

In the meantime, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is preparing a tender to clean up a cooling pond on the contaminated site. Part of the work will include a pilot project to test solidification and stabilization technology.

Marcocchio said the cooling pond's contents are not the same as material found in the tar ponds. It's more solid and doesn't have similar organics. "If you were going to do some testing to meet the criteria that the panel outlined, would you not do it on the highly heterogeneous nature of the material in the pond," he asked. "Would you not test various areas of the pond?"

Parker Donham, an agency spokesperson, said part of the pre-design report includes benchscale testing in the tar ponds to identify appropriate mixes to contain and stabilize the site. "We planned to do it all along."

The cooling pond project is an aboriginal set-aside. The work is expected to get underway in 2007. It's one of four preliminary projects expected to prevent environmental damage during the big cleanup.