Sierra Club slams medical officer

Cape Breton Post

    In a bold and unprecedented move Friday, the Sierra Club of Canada urged that Nova Scotia's chief medical officer be fired over statements made concerning toxic contamination on Sydney's Frederick Street.
    Elizabeth May, the club's executive director, said Dr. Jeff Scott has lost his credibility and Nova Scotians deserve better from such an important public office.
    May was incensed at Scott's statements in the press concerning Frederick Street contamination in which he is reported to have said that residents are not at risk.
    "premature and reassuring statements from Jeff Scott only serve to undermine the legitimate demands of residents to be moved," said May.
    Scott is on vacation and was not available for comment Friday.
    However, Health Department spokesperson Sue McKeage said the department continues to have the utmost confidence in Scott's ability.
    "He is in direct contact with the residents of Frederick Street on a near daily basis and working as quickly as possible to ensure all tests are performed," said McKeage.
    Frederick Street resident Juanita McKenzie said Scott does maintain constant contact with her and that she was reserving comment on the Sierra Club's demand until after meeting with the other residents.  She said Scott told her that his comment was made prior to the release of testing results but only reported after the results were released.
    An exhaustive round of soil and water sampling on Frederick Street has shown elevated levels of arsenic, lead, iron and other metals along with some poly aromatic hydrocarbons.  The levels exceed national  standards.
    The final testing report released to residents earlier this week concluded that the exposure and risk to local residents from the contamination has not been identified.
    Testing results from blood and hair samples taken from residents are not expected to be completed until some time next week.
    The residents are demanding they be relocated as the street is located near what many consider to be North America's worst toxic waste dump.
    The Muggah Creek Watershed is a toxic coctail like no other and included an overstuffed municipal landfill and 700,000 tonnes of toxic sludge which comprise the Sydney tar ponds.
    Signs posted on the fence surrounding the site warn of a human health hazard.
    Tory environment critic Jim DeWolfe - MLA Pictou East - toured the street Friday and met with residents.
    He said he's not surprised by the call for Scott to leave his post but that the issue really is, where is Premier Russell MacLellan?
    "He has to get over here and deal with the issue," said DeWolfe, noting the premier lives in Sydney but has yet to meet with the residents.
    He said any comment by Scott that the health of residents is not at risk when contaminants exceed national standards just doesn't make sense.
    "My heart goes out to these people and, like them, I am worried about the long term effects."
    Cape Breton the Lakes MLA Helen MacDonald also joined the chorus Friday.
    "It's absolutely incredible when you hear public health officials dismiss levels of arsenic that are 18 times higher than the guidelines, naphthalene levels up to 8.9 times higher and molybdenum and benzo pyrene levels that are six times the recommended limit," said MacDonald, a New Democrat.
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