Saturday, April 23, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Sierra Club wants review of cleanup


SYDNEY - The Sierra Club of Canada says the Cape Breton district health authority really wants a full panel review of the proposed cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens.

"A review that meets (health authority) concerns looks like a panel review and quacks like a panel review, so we can safely conclude that what they really want is a panel review," said Sierra executive director Elizabeth May.

The health authority said this week it would recommend to Ottawa an in-house comprehensive study of the cleanup plan.

But it said any study must ensure adequate community consultation and public participation, and assess the cleanup alternatives. It also said an ombudsman should be appointed so community concerns are addressed in a way that people will understand.

As well, the authority wants to ensure the health impacts of cleanup options are fully disclosed so citizens will know how appropriate each option is.

"These are all issues that the Sierra Club of Canada shares with the health authority," said Ms. May. "What the . . . authority must realize is that the only appropriate vehicle to address these concerns is a full panel review and that a comprehensive study cannot achieve these mutual concerns."

A debate over the type of environmental assessment needed for the cleanup has raged since late 2004.

Federal officials are collecting opinions before recommending to the Environment Department whether to continue a comprehensive study, which has already begun, or switch to a full panel review led by an independent expert.

John Malcom, CEO of the health authority, said Friday his board and staff feel a comprehensive study could provide all the benefits of a full panel review without its risks, like taking too long.

"When we looked at other full panel reviews we saw that some actually did get derailed," he said. "We don't want a cleanup at any cost, but the . . . Canadian Environmental Assessment Act allows a comprehensive study to have all the community consultation we mentioned."