Review, studies confirm contamination goes beyond tar ponds: Sierra Club
By Tom Ayers
Cape Breton Post
Wed., Oct. 24, 2007
SYDNEY - The Sierra Club of Canada
says two new studies and a
review of a report prepared for the
federal Health Department confirm
that soil contamination extends
beyond the tar ponds and coke oven
sites and into residential areas.
Dr. Tim Lambert, manager of
environmental health risk assessment
for the Calgary Health Region
and a volunteer researcher for the
Sierra Club, released his findings to
a dozen interested citizens at St.
Patrick’s Museum, Wednesday.
He suggested people in Whitney
Pier, Ashby and Sydney’s north end
should take precautions with children,
and said soil remediation
should be considered for the communities
as part of the $400 million
federal/provincial cleanup of the
"I find it particularly tragic that
for 10 per cent of the money on the
table, we could remediate the community,"
the Sierra Club’s Bruno
Marcocchio said. "For $40 or $50
million, we could take the remediation
measures that Dr. Lambert
talks about and truly clean up Sydney."
Lambert said his soil studies in
the three communities surrounding
the tar ponds and coke oven sites
back up data found in a report prepared
for Health Canada that was
never released publicly.
Lambert’s soil samples show that
contamination from lead, arsenic
and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
exceed Canadian guidelines as
much as three kilometres away
from the pollution sources, which
he said Health Canada knew in
"We’re not disputing what Health
Canada has to say, we’re just trying
to bring this to light," he said.
Lambert also said the provincial
medical officer of health concluded
in 2004 that soil contamination is
one of the least likely sources of ill
But Lambert said his review
found the conclusion was based on
data gathered by a consulting firm
that took soil comparative samples
in contamination hot spots along
rail lines in North Sydney, making
Sydney’s contamination rates seem
"Our analysis indicates soil contamination
is the major source of
human exposure to contaminants
in Sydney," Lambert said.
The Sierra Club also jointly funded
a community health survey in
Whitney Pier, Ashby and the north
end, which Lambert said shows that
smoking, alcohol and diet are not
factors in elevated cancer levels
found in the communities.
Instead, he concluded, the
results of these studies suggest that
historic pollution has contributed
to cancer rates.
Lambert suggested that people
living in those communities try to
ensure children don’t eat soil found
in their yards or playgrounds, wash
their children’s hands frequently,
and clean doorways and floors
where children play.
He also said the tar ponds
cleanup should include a plan to
remove contaminated soil from the
three communities within a three kilometre
radius of the source and
place it on the coke ovens site,
which will be capped with clean soil
as part of the cleanup.
"What Dr. Lambert proposes is
really an elegant solution," said
Marcocchio, adding it is not ideal,
but it is practical.