JAG postpones decision on ethics committee's SERL ruling

By Tanya Collier, Cape Breton Post, March 25, 1999
The end to a three-year contentious issue within the Joint Action Group (JAG) has been postponed for an additional 30 days.

An 18-page decision made by JAG's ethics committee to ban members of the board, employees and family members of Sydney Environmental Resources Ltd. (SERL) from five JAG committees, was tabled by JAG roundtable Wednesday. Carl Buchanan, chair of JAG, began the discussion by noting the issue "could be potentially damaging to the organization."

Because of the proposed severity of the ban, he contacted legal council.

Lawyer Gary Corsano at the Sampson McDougall law firm, provided Buchanan with appropriate procedures for the group to follow to "ensure the integrity of the process" and "to uphold the principles of procedural fairness."

Buchanan said correspondence from Corsano noted a decision by the ethics committee may be appealed to roundtable within 30 days of the decision - April 7. And, unless 75 per cent of those in attendance at the roundtable meeting reject the decision, the decision will be confirmed.

Buchanan said the group was recommended to refrain from voting on the decision until after the appeal period passes so it would not appear roundtable prejudged the decision.

JAG calls for halt to Sobeys store project

By Tanya Collier
Joint Action Group (JAG) members want work at a construction site adjacent to the Muggah Creek Watershed halted until their concerns are addressed.

During a JAG roundtable meeting at the Delta Sydney Wednesday, a motion was passed to request regulatory bodies - Nova Scotia's departments of Labour and Environment - to have Atlantic Shopping Centres Ltd. stop construction at their Sobeys store on Prince Street immediately. Mary Ruth MacLellan, a JAG member, introduced the motion and commented she wants answers quickly and wants work at the construction site to stop until she has them.

Michelle Gardiner, said she believed the motion was "timely." The members said they are concerned about gases rising into the air and seepage of black goo. They also want more answers concerning where the excavating soil will be placed.

Two quit JAG amid conflict cloud

Incineration link contentious point on project to clean up tar ponds

By Beverley Ware, Halifax Chronicle Herald, March 25, 1999
Sydney - Two members of the group charged with cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds walked out of a meeting last night, vowing never to return.

Robert Jessome and Brenda Tattrie are volunteer members of the Joint Action Group. They, and fellow member Mike McGrath, were the subject of a conflict-of-interest complaint heard by JAG's ethics committee.

The trio work for Sydney Environmental Resources Ltd., which is maintaining the controversial fluidized-bed incinerators used in a failed attempt to clean up the toxic tar ponds. SERL wants to see them up and running again.

The ethics committee ruled in an 18-page report presented to JAG on Wednesday evening that the three members are in a conflict of interest by sitting on JAG. It ruled neither they nor their immediate family members should belong.

The conflict complaint was launched by Mary Beth MacLellan, who sits on JAG as a concerned resident.

The three employees had hoped for an open discussion of the report Wednesday night but most of JAG's other members voted to table the report until next month's meeting.

"It's my last meeting," an angry Ms. Tattrie said after walking out. "I'm disappointed. I wanted them to deal with this once and for all tonight."

"I'm done here," Mr. Jessome said. "The only thing I'm fighting for is the rights of others."

Neither plans to appeal the decision and in fact put forth a letter saying they will withdraw if they're not wanted.

Several members said they wanted time to read the report before forming an opinion. But the SERL employees' presence in the group - made up of representatives from each level of government and the community - has been a bone of contention for more than two years. Mr. Jessome said he has been torn apart by the ongoing stress. He said he's volunteering his time to help better his community and contributed to several projects that had nothing to do with remediation.

"This is a move partially by some who are anti-incineration and seeing our faces at the table reminds them that incineration is here," Mr. Jessome said. Its effects could be far-reaching, he said. "They think they're kicking out three people sitting at the table and in effect they're kicking out much more."

He said it has implications for business people and members of the steelworkers union as well as relatives of SERL employees.

JAG wants work at Sobeys stopped

By Beverley Ware, Halifax Chronicle Herald, March 25, 1999
Sydney - The group charged with cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds has called for a stop-work order on expansion of a Sobeys store built on toxic soil. Resident Mary Beth MacLellan made the motion before the Joint Action Group, saying: "It will fall on JAG's hands if we don't do something now."

Recent soil samples from the Prince Street Sobeys show six times the allowable limit of cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and elevated levels of petroleum hydrocarbons.

"I think we have a responsibility to do something about that," she said.

JAG member John MacMullin reported a black puddle formed in the parking lot of the Sydney Shopping Centre when Sobeys started to expand its store on the banks of a contaminated brook.

"Who in their right mind would allow anyone to build on that?" he asked.

A Health Department spokesman at the meeting said he will get information from his department on health risks at the site.

Barbara Lewis, another JAG member, said she's upset that workers involved in the Sobeys expansion are not wearing protective gear, despite studies showing both the soil and gas emissions underground are toxic.

"There's no protection at all," she said. "No gloves, no respirators, nothing."

Marc Comeau favoured the motion, saying the health of residents and their children should not be jeopardized for the sake of saving a few dollars at the grocery store.

Marlene Kane said she is boycotting Sobeys for knowingly building on a contaminated site.

The provincial Health, Labour and Environment departments are responsible for ensuring the safety of workers and the environment at the site. Sobeys has said it will vent gases released from under the store through the roof of the building. Mr. MacMullin said he wants a system in place to ensure the air is clean before it is released.

"The first priority should be the safety of the community and the environment," said JAG member Doug MacKinlay. "The second should be the contract with Sobeys." JAG should stop witch hunt now - activist quits because of discrimination
Shirley Christmas resigns from JAG because of discrimination
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