Adapted From The Book Frederick Street - By Barlow And May

1900 - 2007

1900 Dominion Iron and Steel Company (DISCO) begins construction of steel plant in Sydney

1910 Amalgamation of DISCO and Dominion Coal Company into Dominion Steel Corporation

1920 British Empire Steel Company (BESCO) created through corporate merger of Dominion Steel Corporation, Nova Scotia Steel, the Halifax shipyards, Wabana iron mines and the Eastern Car Company

1928 Creation of Dosco - Dominion Steel and Coal Company - controlling the steel mill

1957 DOSCO becomes a subsidiary of British multinational, Hawker-Siddeley


  • Oct. 13 - "Black Friday," the day Hawker-Siddeley announced its intentions to close the steel mill
  • Nov. 20 - Parade of Concern to save the steel mill
  • Dec. - Creation of Sydney Steel Corporation (SYSCO), a provincial Crown corporation, taking responsibility for the steel mill

1982 The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans closes the harbour to lobster fishing due to contamination of lobsters

1984-1985 Tar Ponds was sampled by Acres International Ltd. during site assessment

1986 First announcement of federal-provincial funding for clean-up of tar ponds with promised completion date of mid-1990s

1987 Acres International Ltd. was awarded a contract to clean up the site

1988 Sydney's notorious Coke Ovens finally shut down

1989 Superburn Joint Venture was awarded a contract to build 2 fluidized bed incinerators to burn the toxic waste.

1992-1993 Failure of the sludge pipeline, and inability of the incinerator to burn PCBs safely causes Federal government to abandon the project

1994: Sept. 4 - N.S. government assumes ownership of incinerator through Crown corporation, Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-Up Inc. (STPCUI)

1995 JWEL-IT Joint Venture (contracted by STPCUI), a consortium made up of Nova Scotia consulting firm Jacques Whitford Environmental Ltd. (JWEL) and International Technologies (IT) of Pittsburgh discovers much larger concentration of PCBs during testing. They propose options including incineration, land-filling, and encapsulation.


  • Jan. - Province admits incinerator will not work; announces Plan B, the "encapsulation option" leaving the toxic sludge where it is and burying it in slag
  • Aug. - Province abandons encapsulation option amid public protests; federal-provincial announcement of new process to determine cleanup approach—the Joint Action Group (JAG)


  • April - Sign reading "HUMAN HEALTH HAZARD" is posted on a fence along the railway embankment adjacent to Whitney Pier's Frederick St. (Fence erected by Devco in Fall of 1997) Shortly thereafter, an orange Ooze appears in resident Debbie Ouellette's basement, as well as in the nearby brook.
  • Aug. - a black ooze is discovered in the Frederick St. Brook just outside the fence.
  • Aug. - Provincially funded CANTOX study claims contamination poses no serious health risk to Frederick St. residents.
  • Sept. - A report by Health Canada scientists Dr. Pierre Band and Dr. Michel Camus reveals Sydney residents have much higher death rates from 22 diseases than other Canadians do.
  • Oct. - Dr. Judy Guernsey of Dalhousie University in Halifax and other researchers find Sydney-area men and women much more likely to develop cancer than other Nova Scotians.


  • Jan. - A review of the 1998 Cantox study by Ontario researchers on behalf of the Sierra Club environmental group disputes Cantox's claim that Frederick Street residents are not at risk.
  • April - Three Ontario doctors commissioned by Cancer Care Nova Scotia review the two 1998 studies and find no "specific cancer problem, but rather an overall health problem" in Cape Breton. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity are blamed.
  • May
    • Evacuation of residents of Frederick Street and Curry's Lane
    • Dodds Birth Outcomes Report on live and stillbirths from 1988 to 1997 determined that for all major anomalies combined, the rates in Sydney were about 27 per cent higher than in the rest of Nova Scotia
  • June - Federal-Provincial announcement of $62 million of JAG process, health studies, demonstration projects and sewer collector pipe; residents of Frederick Street and Curry's Lane to be offered permanent relocation

2000: July - Following through on his election campaign promise, Premier John Hamm decides to stop government subsidies to the Sysco plant. The steel plant finally closes.


  • May 2 - Sierra Club of Canada's Executive Director Elizabeth May begins 17 day hunger strike to demand relocation of affected Sydney residents.
  • July 6 - Public Health officials test 237 people for lead and arsenic exposure. It is revealed that children have tested positive for high levels of both lead and arsenic in their urine. See Sierra Club's Testing and Risk Assessment Backgrounder
  • Fall - An updated 1999 study by Dr. Linda Dodds of Dalhousie University says Sydney had a 25 per cent higher rate of birth defects than the rest of the province, 1988-98.
  • Dec. 4 - A Provincial-Federal report by JDAC Environment concludes that the area around the Sydney Tar Ponds is as safe as any other urban area. Environmentalists with the Sierra Club were skeptical of the report.


  • Feb. - Local media uncover documents revealing that high levels of toxic substances such as arsenic, lead, manganese and benzene have been found on every block of a Whitney Pier neighbourhood next to the government-owned coke ovens site.
  • March 6 - Government soil testing program determines it's safe to live close to the tar ponds. More than 300 soil samples were taken in areas around Sydney, but researchers say only one sample had unsafe levels of toxins. Many people in the community aren't convinced.
  • Aug. 16 - Only half of the 90 people eligible to have their contaminated properties cleaned up by the province sign up. Some people demand to be relocated instead. Others say a clause in the waiver prevents them from suing the government later.
  • Oct. 22 - Environmental Commissioner Johanne Gelinas criticizes the Federal government's handling of the Tar Ponds cleanup. Despite millions of dollars already spent, the government still has no clear plan. A few days later, Environment Minister David Anderson and Robert Thibault, Nova Scotia's representative in the federal cabinet, meet with Sydney residents.



  • Jan. 3 - Federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan tours ponds, meets with municipal, Chamber and labour leaders
  • Feb. 3 - Liberals promise $4 billion to clean up toxic sites, including tar ponds
  • Feb. 24 - Lambert-Lane Dust Study published - Neighborhoods surrounding Sydney tar ponds heavily contaminated
  • Mar. 5 - Inactive SERL incinerator to be scrapped
  • Mar. 19 - Study proposed re tar ponds sediment removal, transport, pretreatment, handling and storage
  • Mar. 25 - Sydney families file $1-billion class action suit for years of exposure to pollution
  • Mar. 30 - CBRM's sewage treatment plant project underway
  • Apr. 3 - Local groups including Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber begin push for rapid cleanup
  • Apr. 24 - Murray Demolition to demolish three structures related to SERL incinerator project
  • May 12 - Ottawa and NS strike $400-million cleanup deal on eve of federal election - Burn & Bury plan revealed
  • May 22 - JAG complains $330,000 for District Health Authority "Healthy Initiatives" could have funded Cohort Study
  • June 8 - Delay in announcing naphthalene leak at Domtar tank infuriates local residents
  • July 16 - Realignment of Coke Ovens Brook (planned for 2005)- first "concrete" step in cleaning up ponds
  • July 20 - Ken Swain of federal PWGSC Dept. meets with local officials - announces federal presence in Sydney
  • July 29 - Dan Fraser, former JAG chairman, to run for mayor of CBRM
  • July 31 - Soil study finally released: NS medical officer of health announces - Sydney safe place to live
  • Aug. 3 - Study shows Blueberries growing near tar ponds are safe to eat
  • Aug. 28 - Eco Logic, owner of Hydrogen Reduction(GPCR)process ceases operations
  • Sept.18 - MediaSpark wins $150,000 contract to set up & maintain new STPA website
  • Oct. 2 - Sierra Club invites public to hear TDenviro and Hallett Inc. on their proposed cleanup technologies
  • Oct. 4 - AMEC wins contract to prepare the environmental impact statement for cleanup
  • Nov. 13 - Public Works Minister Scott Brison speaks at luncheon - implies full panel review may be necessary


  • Jan. 22 - David Suzuki speaks to CBRM residents - pans incineration of tar ponds sludge
  • Feb. 9 - Plans for tar ponds cleanup laid out - VJ Coal Wash Plant site picked for incinerator
  • Mar. 3 - US Incineration expert and chemistry professor Dr. Paul Connett speaks to a capacity crowd of concerned CBRM residents
  • Mar. 9 -
    • Sierra Club delivers 4,445 name petition against incineration to federal Public Works minister Brison
    • Cape Breton Regional Municipality Council decides to support a Comprehensive Study instead of a Full Panel Review
  • Mar. 19 - US environmentalist Lois Gibbs (Love Canal) speaks to Sydney residents about Tar Ponds strategies
  • Mar. 22 - Cape Breton District Health Authority makes public its support for a Comprehensive Study
  • May 2 - Federal government orders a "Full Panel", independent environmental assessment for tar Ponds project
  • June 16 - Conestoga-Rovers & Associates wins tender - will monitor remediation of tar ponds.
  • June 25 - $3.7-million Domtar tank project delayed once more - unconfirmed reports say Clean Harbors wants more money.
  • July 8 - McMaster U. researcher says pregnant women living near Sydney's tar ponds have normal levels of contaminants in their blood.
  • July 14 - Cape Breton University researcher Martha Jones studies aquatic life in Sydney tar ponds.
  • July 15 - Nova Scotia claims it has final say and can overrule Panel Review decision.
  • Aug. 5 - Traffic blamed for high levels of iron and dust near Frederick St.
  • Aug. 27 - $6.3-million contract announced to divert contaminants from the Coke Ovens Brook - expected to be completed by December 2006
  • Aug. 30 - Ministers Issue Final Guidelines for Preparation of Environmental Impact Statement for tar Ponds cleanup
  • Sept. 9 - $194,640 participant funding announced for Phase II Tar Ponds Panel Review
  • Sept. 19 - Lesley Griffiths (chair), William H.R. Charles and Louis LaPierre appointed to Tar Ponds Panel
  • Oct. 5 - NB government says no to Coke Ovens Domtar tank material for Bennett test burn at Belledunne incinerator
  • Oct. 18 - Cape Breton Partnership announces a 6-point plan to help local businesses claim a substantial part of Tar Ponds cleanup funds
  • Oct. 20 - Jobs filled at Tar Ponds Agency: Barb Baillie, former area manager at Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation, is the new director of engineering, Frank Potter is director of environmental services, Cory Stewart, former chief financial officer at Schwartz Furniture, is director of corporate services while Parker Donham, formerly a communications consultant for the agency, is director of community relations and communication.
  • Oct. 21 - Delegation travels to examine five cleanup projects in Alberta and the United States
  • Oct. 29 - Membertou gets to clean up the Tar Ponds cooling pond - the province's first project tendered as an aboriginal set-aside
  • Nov. 17 - Phase II funding announced for Tar Ponds Panel Review - $169,947 in all awarded to 9 groups or individuals
  • Nov. 24 - STPA engineers announce design details of the cofferdam to control contaminated water leaving the tar ponds and travelling into the harbour


  • Jan 4 - Public briefing given on the Tar Ponds Environmental Impact Statement. (prepared by AMEC, Jacques Whitford and ADI Ltd. for STPA)
  • Jan 12 - Grand Lake Road area residents oppose plans for an incinerator to burn toxic tar ponds sludge in their neighbourhood
  • Jan. 25 - Cape Breton Regional Council has pulled its support of STPA's cleanup plan because it calls for an incinerator in the region
  • Feb. 23 - Sydney Tar Ponds Agency adds five employees to its ranks: Carol Cunningham, of Sydney, and Jerome MacNeil, of Glace Bay, are contract managers while Roy MacDonald, of Sydney Mines, is risk and scheduling manager. John Chesal, of Big Bras d'Or, is communications officer and Lorraine Munroe, of Marion Bridge, is library clerk and receptionist.
  • Mar. 3 - Joint Review Panel receives responses from STPA to public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement
  • Apr. 29 - Joint Review Panel begins public hearings on cleanup plan at Victoria Park in Sydney
  • May 19 - Joint Panel wraps up hearings and promisses to submit report to the federal and provincial ministers on or before July 13, 2006
  • May 20 - Coffer Dam becomes "Rock Wall": a $1.4-million contract will see J&T Van Zutphen Construction of Port Hood build a 600-metre rock wall between the Sydney tar ponds and Sydney Harbour.
  • May 31 - Green party candidate claims bias in Sydney tar ponds cleanup
  • July 5 - Sydney residents complain of dust from both SYSCO and Tar Ponds cleanup work - NDP MLA Gosse brings concerns to legislature
  • July 8 - Tar Ponds Cooling Pond cleanup delayed - postponed to Spring 2007 as STPA calls in Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to conduct an audit on the winning bid.
  • July 13- Joint Review Panel submits report to both federal and provincial Environment Ministers: 55 recommendations suggest major revisions to STPA's plans
  • Aug. 4 - STPA announces that Cooling Pond testing will help deal with panel concerns: STPA's original plans involved some pilot-testing on the cooling pond, but that portion of the project was dropped in April's tender because of scheduling problems.
  • Aug. 14 - Sierra Club concerned about who will hold STPA accountable to the Panel's 55 recommendations: questions validity of pilot project to test solidification and stabilization technology at the Cooling Ponds
  • Aug. 30 - Earth Tech and local partner CBCL Ltd. win $30 million contract to oversee both design and completion of the Tar Ponds cleanup plan
  • Sept. 19 - Cape Breton University hosts conference on solidification and stabilization technology
  • Sept. 28 - STPA's "economic benefits co-ordinator" Barbara Stead Coyle claims her job is to design policies and programs to optimize local participation and spend money locally.
  • Oct. 3 - Cape Breton Partnership announces "Uncovering Opportunities Workshop" (Oct. 31) to help local companies maximize their benefits from Tar Ponds cleanup.
  • Oct. 7 - Call for proposals issued to study future uses of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites: STPA and Public Works Canada are contributing $100,000 to the $200,000 study
  • Nov. 29 - Last of Domtar Tank contents secretly destroyed: Clean Harbors used incinerators in Aragonite, Utah and Kimball, Nebraska to complete the job
  • Dec. 21 - Decision on cleanup delayed until January - Federal government ponders replacing environment minister Rona Ambrose


  • Jan. 10 - Engineers to drill into bedrock beneath north and south ponds: samples restricted to the route for channeling water from Coke Ovens Brook and Wash Brook to Sydney Harbour