Full panel review needed for safe choice

Christiane Tanner - Letter to the editor
Cape Breton Post
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Remediation of the tar ponds and the coke ovens site is a very complicated scientific matter. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of people who have filled out the Joint Action Group's community recommendation workbooks has been small to date.

It is probably wise for people not to respond if they have not been able to secure enough information. To judge the level of interest for the cleanup on the number of completed workbooks would be erroneous because, in reality, everyone wants this project to go forward, and as safely as possible.

Of the solutions under consideration, capping seems to be preferred. Capping has two significant advantages: it avoids both the burning and the transporting of dangerous substances. The downside of capping is that it will require careful, constant monitoring and maintenance for the foreseeable future.

Even under these circumstances the sites would be vulnerable to accident or natural disaster. For this option to be acceptable, the construction, monitoring and maintenance must meet the highest possible standards.

Incineration is not an acceptable remediation method for either the tar ponds or the coke ovens. Local incineration of the large volumes of toxic substances contained at these sites poses too great a risk of further harm to the environment and to people's health; off-site incineration creates the risk of a toxic spill during transportation.

Each of these propositions has its disadvantages. If we want to maximize our chances of adopting the safest and best solutions, we should request that the federal Department of Environment conduct a full panel review. The panel's role would be to ascertain that the solutions chosen and the methods used comply with the guidelines established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

This, I believe, would be our best bet for choosing remediation options that would be safe for us as well as for future generations.