Health authority defends its right to comment on future of tar ponds site

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Aug. 26, 2008

Sydney - A position paper released by the Cape Breton District Health Authority stating its desire to turn the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites into a large recreation space doesn't fly in the face of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's authority, says the health authority's spokesperson.

Greg Boone was responding to comments made by Reserve Mines Coun. Vince Hall, who issued a news release Friday accusing the health authority's chief executive officer John Malcom of "meddling in municipal jurisdiction" by writing a letter to the chair of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency's citizen liaison committee to explain the need in preventing commercial and residential development on the sites once remediation is complete years from now. "We're providing feedback like any other organization or individuals," Boone said Monday. "The document is a draft shared for comment and we're pleased to get some comment back initially from Coun. Hall and we expect that members of the citizen liaison committee and anyone else who reviews it will provide some comment."

The position paper has been forwarded on to CBRM chief administrative officer Jerry Ryan, with the intent of it being shared with council for review and reaction.

Malcom said the health authority "would not support construction of any form or development of any of these lands in the long term." He said there is a concern development of any kind could breach the cap containing hazardous materials such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Any proposal for light commercial development will only be permitted on the former coke ovens site, said Sydney Tar Ponds Agency spokesperson Tanya Collier MacDonald. "All of the design features we'll keep in mind for future use, but at the same time our first priority is to maintain the integrity of the cap," Collier MacDonald said. "If that means someone can't build a basement, then they won't be permitted to build a basement and they will be notified before they buy any property or lease."

She said although no development will be allowed at the tar ponds site, it could potentially be used as recreation space in the future.

Boone said by maintaining the sites as a large green space, the area will help promote healthy living and active transportation.