Sierra Club member says Sydney Tar Ponds Agency attempting to stop debate

By Wes Stewart
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Nov. 8, 2005

SYDNEY Attempts by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency to muzzle public debate on the cleanup rankles one local environmentalist. "I have to take exceptiqn to Parker Donham saying we created a stigma about Sydney, the fact of the issue is that the Sydney tar ponds waste and Domtar waste are extremely toxic material that have to be dealt with properly wherever they are dealt with," said Bruno Marcocchio.

The Atlantic campaign .director for the Sierra Club of Canada, said it grieves him the approach taken by Sydney Tar Ponds Agency spokesperson Parker Donham in Saturday's edition of the Cape Breton Post about the reasons, among them negative publicity about the site, for the lack of action on disposing of the sludge from the Domtar tanks.

"We do not want to victimize another community with solutions that are not acceptable in the industrial Cape Breton area," the environmentalist said.

The 1,500 tonnes of sand and gravel coal tar mix is sitting in containers on a rail sid-ing in Sydney after two attempts to dispose of the material failed and there is no solution on the horizon.

Marcocchio said Clean Harbors wanted to landfill the material at a site in Sarnia, Ont., which he described as leaking and not a viable option, nor was burning it in an incinerator in Quebec.

He accused Donham and the agency of waging a public relations war against the communities they live in suggesting that "we are somehow stigmatizing Sydney by talking about the fact they are not dealing with the materials safely."

Now is the time for open, transparent discussion with the community about what is ongoing, he said.

Marcocchio, an ardent opponent of options on the table to remediate the sites - bioremediation, solidification, and plans to burn PCBs in the CBRM" - pointed out that members of the liaison committee meeting behind closed doors and outside of media and public scrutiny is an insult to the community. "We want to be a part of an active, safe solution to find answers for Canada's worst hazardous waste site," he said.

By refusing to speak to anyone and making wild claims about the reputation that Sydney is having because other communities in this country realize how dangerous this toxic waste is not productive.

He added the agency's communications department has a staff of five who should implement an open and transparent process. In the case of the Domtar tank, the cleanup has been ongoing for three years.

"Here we are today with the tar ponds agency and their consultants not having any kind of a clue what they are going to do with that material."

The Sierra Club favours a soil washing process developed by a company in Alberta, which can safely do the job without posing a risk to human health, he said.