Monday, January 10, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau
The old universal mill awaits demolition at the site of the former Sydney steel plant. It's expected the mill will be levelled by year's end.

Taxpayers face $23m Sysco bill
Provincial website indicates cleanup to cost extra $10m

By TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau

SYDNEY - Taxpayers will fork out about $23 million for cleanup work at the old steel plant this year.

The province's website says an extra $10 million will be spent this year to tear down most of the remaining structures and clean up chemicals left on the grounds of the 450-hectare site in the heart of Sydney.

The plant closed in 2001 after 100 years of steelmaking under private and public ownership.

The extra cash to be spent this year follows a profitable 2004 when assets from the site produced a $4.5-million profit on a $13.2-million budget, mostly from the sale of the electric arc furnace and slag and scrap steel. It's not expected sales will produce a profit this year, a business plan states.

Site demolition began a year after the government shut down the plant after failing to sell the operation to private interests.

The work is nearly 60 per cent complete, with more than 30 buildings torn down, including the machine shop, boiler shop, No. 2 open hearth and stacks, blooming mill pit building and stacks, No. 3 blast furnance and stoves, the rail finishing mill, a calcite plant and the roll shop.

Workers, mostly former steelworkers, removed 50,000 kilograms of PCBs for containment in the plant's brickhouse; 600,000 kilograms of asbestos-tainted material; two 11-million-litre bunker fuel storage tanks; three kilometres of underground fuel and coke-oven tar lines; and 1.4 million kilograms of other potentially toxic chemicals.

Money for the massive cleanup was set aside by the Hamm government in 2001.

Since the work began, 117,000 tonnes of blast-furnace slag has been sold to various interests for about $17 million. The slag is mostly used as aggregate, such as filler on the site or elsewhere, like along the shoulders of municipal and provincial roads.

"A large stockpile of slag on site will ensure continued operations, employment and revenue into the foreseeable future," the website states.

Several projects will be tackled at the site this year, including reopening a bridge to allow public access to the main administration building that contains various offices including the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Sydney Environmental Resources Ltd. and Sysco.

The province also plans to hire consultants to do a water supply study, continue testing for environmental contamination below ground, complete engineering surveys, create a long-term database for future property management and draft plans for a greening project for Whitney Pier.

"The overall goal . . . is to create a vibrant industrial site where new industries and businesses will locate," the business report states. "The site will be a good place in which to work or establish a business."

Some businesses have already located to the site, including Elks Fabricators and Provincial Energy Ventures.

Work this year will include removal or cleansing of two more bunker C oil tanks, removal or disposal of PCBs in the brickhouse, and removing another two kilometres of oil lines.