Wednesday, April 27, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio says a full environmental review of the tar ponds by independent experts would be preferable to a government-led project.

Full review may 'derail' cleanup
Groups call for government to lead environmental review of tar ponds

By The Canadian Press

SYDNEY - A group of 11 community groups says they prefer a government-led study on the tar ponds cleanup in Cape Breton.

"This is an extraordinary gathering," said Coun. Vince Hall, who billed the announcement as "urgent."

He said there hadn't been so many diverse organizations calling for government action since Black Friday, 38 years ago, when labour and business groups marched to argue for the preservation of steel mills on the island.

During the session on Monday, held at the Civic Centre in Sydney, Hall repeated that Cape Breton Regional Municipality recommends a government-led environmental study of the toxic waste site - rather than a full-scale environmental impact assessment led by independent panelists.

The municipality's view is backed by the Cape Breton district health authority's chief executive officer, John Malcom.

"The organizations and individuals here are the bedrock of our community," said Hall.

He said that representatives in attendance support a comprehensive study.

A full-panel review will take "much longer and encourage yet more destructive debate," said Hall.

"It will also put the cleanup itself at risk. If a panel were to recommend a cleanup process costing much more than $400 million, it may derail the project altogether."

Hall said a problem with a full- panel review is that it will be difficult to find "so-called independent experts" to sit on the panel, and making them familiar with the project is another challenge.

He also believes the federal government wouldn't be able to enforce stringent timelines for the panel to follow.

"Today will tell us if Ottawa is listening to the leaders of this community," said Hall.

Malcom also said the full-panel approach will cause unnecessary and lengthy delays.

He said a comprehensive study allows ample opportunity for community involvement and will lead to a safe and effective cleanup in a reasonable amount of time.

"I've learned it pays to listen," said Malcom. "I hope people are hearing what this community is saying."

Bruno Marcocchio, a spokesman for the Sierra Club of Canada, also attended the news conference as an "uninvited guest."

He said that government has already wasted $60 million on previous cleanup attempts and a full environmental review by independent experts would be preferable.