Thursday, January 12, 2006 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Residents: Incinerated sludge not wanted

Federal, provincial governments propose putting tar ponds burner in Grand Lake Road neighbourhood


SYDNEY - The overwhelming message delivered at a meeting of about 40 concerned Grand Lake Road and area residents Thursday night is that they don't want an incinerator burning toxic tar ponds sludge in their neighbourhood.

"I'm making it clear that I'm not supporting incineration," said area Coun. Vince Hall, who along with Grand Lake Road resident Ron Marman, hosted the meeting at the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus.

Mr. Marman said that he lives about two kilometres from the proposed Victoria Junction incinerator site. "The site itself is not suitable," he said, adding that it's close to Cape Breton University, a golf course, a dairy farm, several water bodies, homes and businesses.

The federal and provincial governments have proposed a 10-year, $400-million plan to clean up the Sydney tar ponds, the toxic result of a century of steelmaking in industrial Cape Breton.

On Jan. 3 the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency and officials with three environmental firms briefed media on a newly released 3,000-page environmental impact statement, which proposes stabilizing 580,000 tonnes of sludge on site using hardening agents such as cement powder.

And it proposes shipping 120,000 tonnes of sludge contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polyaromatic hydrocarbons to Victoria Junction for incineration.

Shawn Duncan, the impact statement co-ordinator, said a "thermal destruction incinerator" would run for three years, burning 99.9999 per cent of the PCBs and PAHs in the sludge and would automatically shut down if that level wasn't being met.

But residents at the meeting Thursday were skeptical of how well the proposed incinerator would work. "I haven't seen one or read about one that hasn't had problems," said Grand Lake Road resident Henry Lelandais, who worked as a metallurgist and chemist at the steel plant in Sydney for 35 years, starting in 1956. "It's not worth taking a chance."

The environmental effects of an incinerator, as listed in the impact statement, include increased vehicle traffic and rail use, decreased property values, noise, "short-term deposition of contaminants on surrounding area and communities," "emissions from material piles," and "slight increase in risk to human health."

Mr. Hall, who chairs the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's tar ponds and coke ovens committee, said he's going to push the municipality to take a position against the incinerator. "There's quite a few councillors, and the mayor, that have concerns about incineration," said Mr. Hall. "And I'm confident that the municipal council trusts my input on the file."

Residents at the meeting decided to submit a report voicing their views to a joint review panel now accepting comments on the impact statement.

Mr. Marman said that while residents don't want the sludge incinerated, they also don't want the cleanup process slowed down. "If we don't watch out, we're going to be studied to death," he said, pointing to alternatives outlined in the statement, such as stabilization of all the sludge. "Let's get on with this."

Mr. Hall said he was confident the group would get a good hearing from the joint review panel and the Tar Ponds Agency. "If I thought you were going to be run over roughshod, I'd tell you right now," he said. "I don't think anybody has to go out laying on the road."

'I'm making it clear that I'm not supporting incineration.'