Sydney - Residents living near the toxic coke ovens and tar ponds
sites might have to be moved out when a cleanup begins, says a
government-funded report released Tuesday.
CBCL Ltd. and Conestoga-Rovers and Associates Ltd., in a
report that was presented to the Joint Action Group for
Environmental Cleanup on Tuesday night, say an investigation
should consider whether "separation zones" will be necessary.
"The development of a separation zone should also be
considered as a temporary measure, effected during the life of the
remedial work program, but no longer required when the site has
been fully remediated and the lands returned to an acceptable
land use," says the report funded by Environment Canada and the
Joint Action Group.
The report commissioned in 1998 cites several streets that could
be declared part of a red zone before and during any cleanup at
the coke ovens site.
Those include Frederick Street, Curry's Lane, Tupper Street and
the north and south sides of the Victoria Road overpass that goes
over the coke ovens site.
"Initiate the process ... to define an appropriate separation zone to
distance residential land use from anticipated investigation and
remediation activities," the report says.
Frederick Street resident Juanita McKenzie, who also sits on the
committee hearing the recommendations, pressed fellow
members to take action.
"This is a very disturbing report," she said. "We have to take
action now. We have to get this area cleaned up. I feel the
recommendations put forward are very powerful and should be
adhered to with us in mind."
Frederick Street residents have been pressing governments to
move them out of the area before any work proceeds.
Another buffer zone could include the areas surrounding the tar
ponds in downtown Sydney. The area includes Sysco, residences,
a bus depot, municipal buildings and a car dealership.
The criteria used to establish these zones include the proximity of
residences to the cleanup sites and the potential health risks
through exposure to dust and fumes or unsafe conditions such as
"Establishment of a separation zone is a detailed process based
on health-risk assessment and scientific data," the report says.
It also recommends adopting stringent health and safety
measures to limit human exposure to the five chemical groups on
15 sites in the toxic area, deemed one of the worst in North
Coal tar, which can measure 15 to 50 centimetres deep at the
coke ovens site, should be dug up and covered with soil, it says.
Workers in the area should be warned about the hazards. A
detailed health and safety plan, similar to American occupational
health and safety requirements, must be created.
Among the chemicals posing a risk are polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds, heterocyclic
compounds, polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals.
The report says the Domtar storage tank, containing 14 to 1,110
times acceptable limits of nine different PAHs, should be removed
and its contents disposed of. The area should then be covered
and revegetated, it says. Several brooks in the area should be
diverted away from heavily contaminated areas.
The report also says more fencing is needed surrounding the tar
ponds and coke ovens site and access should be restricted to
authorized personnel only.
The separation zones and interim measures "can be at least
initiated, if not completed, prior to the receipt of data from future
investigations," the report says.
The report points out there was "no documented evidence that
represents a short-term risk to human health."
The sub-group that ordered the study will take it to the larger JAG
for acceptance. It's expected another study will be needed to
identify the parameters of the red zone.
JAG vice-chairwoman Slawna Lamond said the report didn't go
"I would expect the consultants to answer the (buffer zone)
question and not define the questions ... and I see a lot of
questions," she said. "Whose going to get the answers?"
Environment Canada official Marie Dober suggested the group
give the report "a broad acceptance" so that the bureaucratic
wheels can begin to turn to find the answers.
Janet Bryson, a provincial Public Works spokeswoman, said
nothing will be done "without first knowing the effects and ...
knowing what's there."
"We have to go based on facts and science. There has to be
more assessments done," she said earlier Tuesday.
With Barry Dorey, staff reporter