Brison coming to gauge community's preference for tar ponds assessment

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Sept. 20, 2004

Federal minister Scott Brison will come to Sydney in the next few weeks to get a sense of this community's preference on how clean-up plans for the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites should be assessed.

MP Mark Eyking, Sydney-Victoria, said Brison, the new public works and government services minister, has agreed to meet with community leaders as requested in a letter sent to him Thursday.

Within weeks, the project definition needed for the cleanup of the toxic sites will be forwarded to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for its consideration. It's expected that the agency will make a recommendation shortly after on how the environment minister should assess the project - a necessary step before work begins.

In the meantime, community groups and environmentalists are lining up to get their voices heard. In a press release issued Thursday, the newly struck Community Partnership for the Remediation of Muggah Creek Watershed asked for a meeting with Brison as well as federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion.

"We want a comprehensive study done so we can get on with the cleanup," said Bruce Meloney, the partnership's co-chairperson. "Both the ministers are new to the departments and we want to make sure they're up to date."

The Sierra Club of Canada has often said that it wants nothing short of a full panel review.

The difference between the two methods is that the comprehensive study assessment is led and controlled by government whereas a full panel review is led and controlled by an independent group of experts appointed by the federal environment minister.

Meloney said the amount of community consultation completed by the Joint Action Group for the past five years circumvents the need for a full panel review. "We understand that there are special interest groups lobbying intensely for a full panel assessment," said Meloney. "Leadership of this community is opposed to a full panel and convinced of the appropriateness of a comprehensive review. Our concern is that the views of non-resident activists are being mistakenly adopted in Ottawa as the sentiment of the majority of the community. We want the ministers to understand that nothing could be farther from fact."

Bruno Marcocchio, spokesperson for the Sierra Club, said a comprehensive study lacks the opportunity for public input. "A full panel review is the only way," he said.

The club refutes suggestions that a full panel would take between two to four years to complete. Members said it could take as little as six months if the panel is properly crafted and deadlines are imposed.

The provincial and federal government signed a memorandum of agreement in May that outlined their support for the cleanup. Ottawa committed no more than $280 million and the provincial government agreed to no more than $120 million over the next 10 years.