Province says no to tar ponds material for Bennett test burn

1,500 tonnes from coke ovens don't qualify, says environment department

By Derwin Gowan
NB Telegraph-Journal
Oct. 5, 2005

Bennett Environmental Inc.'s plan to start up a plant in Belledune to treat soil contaminated with creosote suffered a setback Tuesday.

The Department of the Environment and Local Government issued a two-paragraph statement late in the afternoon that the company cannot accept material from the Domtar site in Sydney, N.S., at Belledune.

Bennett planned to "test burn" 1,500 metric tonnes of material from the former coke ovens site as part of the process of commissioning the $30-million Belledune plant.

Bennett must test material representing the range of contaminated soil it plans to treat at Belledune to prove to Environment and Local Government that it can meet guidelines for contamination.

The company hoped to conduct the tests with 700 metric tonnes of soil from the Smurfit-Stone pulp mill site in Bathurst contaminated with Bunker C oil, 4,000 tonnes from a former service station at Petit Rocher contaminated with gasoline, and the 1,500 metric tonnes from the Domtar site.

However, the department does not believe material from Nova Scotia meets a condition it set on Jan. 17, 2003, which states, "the proponent is authorized to import creosote and non-chlorinated hydrocarbon soil only."

Inka Milewski, science advisor to the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, welcomed the news. "I'm pleased to see that the province has done the right thing," she said in a telephone interview from Miramichi Tuesday.

She believes the department made this decision as a result of a letter she sent to acting minister Dale Graham on Sept. 7.

She asked Mr. Graham to rescind the authorization for Bennett to import and treat the material from Sydney because it does not meet the definition of contaminated "soil" which the company has approval to treat.

"This material is not soil, we've heard one description of it as 'quasi petrified coal tars,'" she said.

She noted a news release on the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency website dated June 23 describing this 1,500 metric tonnes of material as "thickened coal tar and tarry debris."

This material came from the Domtar tank on the coke ovens property. The last 1,500 metric tonnes from the tank were placed in containers and loaded on rail cars awaiting shipment to a licenced hazardous waste treatment facility.

Ms. Milewski's letter to Mr. Graham on Sept. 7 cites a report in 2001 listing the contents of the Domtar tank as "a variety of inorganic and organic substances including petroleum hydrocarbons, PAHs, BTEX, phenols and heavy metals." She said that BTEX stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

Neither Bennett nor the Department of Environment and Local Government returned telephone messages late on Tuesday afternoon.