It's back to
the negotiating table next week for members of the Joint Action Group (JAG)
and its government partners to hammer out a memorandum of understanding
All sides met Wednesday in Sydney in the latest round of talks which have been ongoing since JAG was first formed in 1996 to develop a community-based remediation plan for the tar ponds.
Carl (Bucky) Buchanan, JAG chairperson and head of the MOU committee, said the talks this week went well and he's optimistic an aggreement is close at hand.
He said the JAG committee will meet Tuesday and all sides will convene another meeting Wednesday.
The 50-page agreement outlines the responsibility of each of the three funding partners -- municipal, provincial and federal governments -- in addition to the expected process of JAG towards its final recommendation of a remediation option for the .
The watershed is considered North America's worst toxic waste dump containing, among other things, 700,000 tonnes of highly toxic sludge left behind after nearly a century of steel making.
Outstanding issues that need to be resolved, said Buchanan, include the boundaries for the proposed remediation.
The current plan is only for JAG to concern itself with the cleanup of the tar ponds, Muggah Creek estuary and the coke ovens site.
this is causing some JAG members concern because the municipal landfill is also leaching into the watershed area.
But talks among all the partners have indicated the landfill will be stabilized to ensure any pollutants are diverted away from the watershed.
Indemnity and liability are two other concerns, notes Buchanan.
He said the JAG committee has received considerable information on the outstanding issues and will now develop a response, as will the other partners.
Sydney-Victoria MP Peter Mancini wants the deal signed before Sept.1 as a sign of true commitment by the government.
Buchanan is hoping for an agreement in August, in time for JAG's second anniversary. JAG has asked the deal be signed by the prime minister, premier and mayor.