Tar Ponds/Coke Ovens: Open Forum Postings
Open Forum

All comments have been scanned before posting - no personal attacks :-)

From: "Cory Trevors"
Sydney River
Date sent: Wed., 16 April 2003

I find it hard to belive that the public will be able to make the best decision with regard to picking a cleanup option. Perhaps it is just me, but I think that decisions of that level of importance and complexity should be handled by a team of experts. I feel that the workbook campaign is an absolute waste of time and money. I find it embarassing that our community is conducting this project in this fashion.

Answer from: "Bruno Marcocchio" (brunom@syd.eastlink.ca)

Hi Cory,

The idea that the public can make meaningful choices after reading the workbook and having a two hour briefing is ridiculous.

It is designed to give the appearance of public input where none really exists. We were to be involved in selecting acceptable technologies and making real choices. Instead government consultants have made all decisions with no public input.

It is meant to give the appearance of public input to avoid full public hearings during the environmental assessment that must be done when a selected cleanup option is announced. It is a cruel joke as well as very misleading to the public.

If you look at the workbook the choices narrow to two. Leave the sludge where it is and cover it up or move it to the top of the hill and incinerate and/or landfill it at the coke ovens site. All choices that are not incineration are lumped together in choice 3 for the pond and are so confusing even an engineer would be scratching his or her head wondering what that choice means. Even that one includes incineration as one of a number of confusing choices.

The workbook will serve only to blame the community later for a choice we never really had when things go wrong in the future. In short it avoids real public input in the short term and sets us up for blame of a bad choice that is in all likelihood already made by backroom deliberations.

The Sierra Club feels that a safe,effective solution (check out Eco-Logic from our site www.safecleanup.com ) has been ignored for no apparent reason. It can safely destroy all of the pond PAH and PCB alike for the 330 million that option 3 would cost in the same period of time. Instead of answering questions about why this safe, effective solution is being ignored JAG is misleading the public about this technology and attacking the Sierra Club for bringing forward a safe, effective solution that would protect human health.

Cheers, Bruno Marcocchio

Atlantic Conservation Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Followup: Dr. Bill Williams (billwilliamscb@hotmail.com)
April 17, 2003

I totally agree with Cory Trevorsí comments mentioned previously. Although the public should be consulted and notified in what happens with major issues such as the remediation of the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Site, they should not have decision-making power in such a deep technical issue.

These decisions should be left up to the engineers and research scientists who specialize in such fields as toxic waste and environmental remediation, etc. Most regular people do not have sound enough knowledge of what is involved with these sites and what is involved with the remediation of these sites.

As for the workbook, there are some good methods in the workbook, but there are also bad methods. Some people could even choose these bad methods. One example of a bad method of clean up is capping it. Anyone with any kind of knowledge of this type of remediation would know what happened with Chernobyl. They capped it and it eventually leaked. The leak caused more harm than in the long run.

This work book, in my opinion, and Iím sure in many of other people\'s opinions, is a waste of time and money.

Furthermore, we hire government official and politicians so the public doesnít have to be consulted by plebiscite of every issue facing society. If we constantly held plebiscites, our taxes would be so high that it would be worth working.

Lastly, so much money was wasted on the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Site already. And what do we have to show for it, a workbook.

From:Tom Dillon (Tom.Dillon@shawgrp.com)
Date sent: Mon, 07 Apr, 2003


I was the JWEL-IT JV Project Manager for the attempted cleanup of the Tar Ponds in 1996 following the abandonment of the fluidized bed reactor systems. I brought to the project significant experience with thermal destruction and treatment of hazardous wastes and large environmental remediation projects. We proposed three alternatives for remediation of the Tar Ponds, with incineration being the most expensive and best long-term solution and in-situ containment requiring the lowest near-term costs. The Province selected in-situ containment largely due to funding constraints.

Prior to executing any work, we felt it was critical to confirm the waste profile as PCBs had been found in one corner of the South Pond. Our field testing found that PCB's were distributed more broadly in both the North and South pond and were distributed similar to thin filling layers in a layer cake. The broader presence of PCB's had significant regulatory and cost impacts. We performed a feasibility study for alternatives and the GPCR process was an evaluated and highly ranked process. Once key contributor to the cost competitiveness of the GPCR process was the ability to use the fuel content of the waste to drive the thermal disorption process. I believe that study was made available to the public by STPCUI. However, there was insufficient funding to move forward with any of the alternatives. We then recommended that the Province terminate our contract for convenience.

The JAG process has been the most visible process since that time.

It is uncertain to me whether there has been a firm commitment to fund any substantial cleanup of the Tar Ponds by the government. I believe funding remains and will remain a significant challenge for this site. Interim containment measures remain attractive as environmental protection measures until a commitment to fund a destruction processes is obtained.

One process concern I had when reviewing your technology in 1996 was refreshed when reviewing your recently distributed brochure. The Tar Ponds contain fine materials with high water contents. Dewatering these sediments remains a significant technical challenge and was a key contributor to the failure of the original fluidized bed incinerators. Most alternative thermal destruction approaches dealt with this via aggressive dewatering followed by processing the remaining retained water and resulting steam through the thermal destruction process. The proposed GPCR approach would produce huge quantities of water along with other gases from the thermal disorption process that would need to be condensed and segregated. Further, the varying water content creates a significant challenge due to off gas surging and could result in over pressurization of the system.

How would you separate and process this water?

Doesn't the high water content significantly challenge the GPCR process economics for this particular waste steam?

In 1997, I left Nova Scotia to continue my career on other sites and projects that were adequately funding and ripe for remediation. However, I would love to see the community and government succeed in finally cleaning up this Sydney site. I wish you luck in your efforts to apply your technology.

Tom Dillon

Answer From: "Beth Kummling" (Beth.Kummling@ecologic.ca)

Hello, Tom:

Thanks for your interesting email and comments - you obviously have a lot of insight into this project from a number of angles.

Your comments on the watery nature of the waste are good, and I'll try to answer your questions as best I can. First off, certainly the presence of water is a drawback for some (perhaps most) waste treatment technologies. In the case of GPCR, this is not a technical drawback, as water is actually input as steam to our system to aid in heat transfer and also act as a source of hydrogen. The drawback of a watery waste is in the economics: having to heat up all that water uses a lot of energy. You mention the possibility of water "surges" to our reactor. I don't think this is a concern, because we can maintain tight control over the inputs to the reactor through our process control system. This same control allows us to treat many different types of contaminants simultaneously, even if they all volatilize at different temperatures (in effect, all "surging" at different times). We've had many years of experience with the technology now, and so have a pretty good handle on controlling the load to our GPCR reactor. But I would encourage you to contact our engineering staff here if you want to discuss this further (I can provide contact details).

So yes, the presence of water in a waste can certainly affect the economics of a project, although it is not a technical drawback for GPCR. Let me elaborate on our approach as it relates to water in the sediment.

The first step prior to thermal desorption would be a dewatering step. This is not in Eco Logic's area of expertise, but we know it exists out there (for example, filter pressing, etc.). The dewatered sediment can then go to the thermal desorption device for treatment. The water that is removed from the sediment may be most effectively treated by running it through granular activated carbon. As you know this is a very effective means of removing contaminants from water. The carbon used in the filtration system can be regenerated using the GPCR plant equipped with a small TRBP front-end device - treatment and reuse of contaminated carbon using GPCR was a common practice at our commercial plants, and we have considerable test data to prove its efficacy (including data audited by the US Army). Again, dewatering of waste is not our area of expertise, and so we would partner with a firm that has this experience. However, we do have a lot of experience treating contaminated water through carbon filtration, and subsequently treating and reusing the carbon itself.

The dewatered sediment is then treated using thermal desorption. This drives off the contaminants and any remaining water in the sediment. There are thermal desorption technologies that have experience condensing the desorbed gases, and then separating out the contaminant fraction from the water fraction. The contaminant fraction goes to GPCR (as discussed in the document), while the water fraction is treated (if necessary) through carbon filtration. There may be some amount of water mixed in with the contaminant fraction, but it will still be a fairly homogeneous mixture, and, as we said above, we have a lot of experience in controlling mixed waste loads to our reactor. Again the saturated carbon can be regenerated in the GPCR plant, and then reused.

So there are treatment steps that are required in addition to GPCR treatment, but in short I would summarize my response to your concerns by saying that GPCR is not actually treating the watery sediment - it is only treating the contaminants that have been removed from the sediment. I would also stress that our expertise is the GPCR technology itself, and we would partner with firms that have the necessary experience to conduct the other tasks involved in the entire treatment train for the Sydney Tar Ponds sediment (dewatering, thermal desorption, metals stabilization, etc.).

I hope I've answered your questions adequately, but I would encourage you to contact me again if you have more questions. A technical discussion with our engineers may be appropriate at that time, as they can go into the details better than I.

Thanks again for your interest,


From: "Stan Margettie"
Date sent: Fri, 21 Mar 2003

The Sierra club is an organization of a group of protesters no matter what method J A G or the goverment come up with to clean up the tar ponds and the coke ovens they are not going to agree with it, because once it is cleaned if it ever is they will have to go some where else to look for for some thing else to protest to keep them going.LET the people that know what thier doing get on with the job.I lived in the pier all my life & i intend to stay here.
Pier resident

Answer from: Dan McMullin

Well Stan, I just don't know where to start :-),
but let's try this for size:
You're absolutely right- the Sierra Club is a "public watchdog". They exist because the so called "people that know what they're doing" often botch the job; not always intentionally, but the result is the same- pain and suffering. These so called "experts" ,from Whitney on down, have been selling us a bogus bill of goods. We bought it because we needed jobs.. "No smoke no baloney"

Now Stan, it's time for me, you, and anyone else who's not inert, to start reading about these issues! Take a look at our history, the studies. Mistakes have been made by "experts"; millions of dollars squandered because peoples motives and "agendas" have NOT be questioned. So take a page from my book Stan.
At age 55 and retired, I'm finally reading as much as I can on these issues. And when I still don't understand the issue, I find an expert I can TRUST.

If we don't ask questions today, our grandkids will continue to pay the price tomorrow.
FYI Stan: I grew up in the North End of Sydney, played every day only feet from the Ponds. I worked briefly at the Steel Plant (and the Coke Ovens)