Tar ponds cleanup still a year away

Last Updated: Jul 29 2005 10:36 AM ADT

Crews will start to divert a brook away from Sydney's contaminated tar ponds site next month, but the real cleanup effort won't begin until next year.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency must submit an environmental impact statement, which will have to be approved by a review panel, before the cleanup project can begin in earnest.

But before that can happen, the provincial and federal governments have to finalize guidelines that will tell the agency what must be included in the statement. Those guidelines must include public comments, and the deadline for those is Saturday.

"When we receive the comments, they will be reviewed and taken into consideration, and are part of the process of forming the final environmental impact statement guidelines," said Bill Turpin, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Environment and Labour.

That environmental impact statement is due by Dec. 30. Following that, the review panel will still have a chance to request changes. Then there will be a public hearing.

As a result, it will be well into 2006 before the real cleanup work on the tar ponds and coke ovens can begin.

In the meantime, the tar ponds agency is trying to keep busy with a series of projects, including one to divert the coke ovens brook away from the contaminated site.

"We have a number of preliminary projects that we're carrying out to prevent further environmental damage while we're waiting for the environmental assessment to take place," said agency spokesperson Parker Donham.

Nova Scotia and Ottawa signed the cleanup deal in May 2004, subject to an environmental assessment.

The 10-year plan calls for most contaminated materials to be dug up and burned, and for the rest of the site to be treated and capped.

Community groups were hoping for a different kind of assessment of the cleanup project.

They pushed for an internal government review, arguing that would speed up the process to allow for a quicker cleanup start.