Tuesday, May 10, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Nova Scotia, not Ottawa, delaying tar ponds cleanup


The May 4 editorial "Another tar ponds cleanup delay?" is based on incorrect premises.

The final Joint Action Group (JAG) recommendation was not the burn-and-bury plan now the subject of a full panel review. The preferred option presented by JAG was the soil-washing process (JAG option 3). This is treatment by a series of three technologies: soil washing, thermal desorption and hydrogen reduction.

The burn-and-bury plan was the option rated least preferable by residents. Incineration was never tested in the technical demonstration JAG undertook to test the various options. The solidification plan (stirring cement into the waste) did not perform well in the technical demonstration. The organic content of the sludge generated methane gas that cracked the solidified sludge.

Ron Russell, minister of transportation and public works, is on the public record as stating that at no time did the provincial government commit to taking the JAG recommendation into account. The seven-year process by our community amounted to little more than a stalling tactic by government.

A full panel conducted in public by independent experts is the only assessment that can adequately look at the merits of the proposal and the alternatives - such as the permanent, technically feasible, cost-effective and safe soil-washing proposal.

Federal Environment Minister Stephane Dion pointed out that impacts on the community from remediation activities have not yet been studied, and directed that the environmental impact statement must include this evaluation.

Dion has directed the clean-up option to be recommended by the panel must not cost more than the $400 million committed to the cleanup and must be complete in 14 months to ensure a timely process. The Tar Ponds Agency has already responded that it wants at least a year to prepare the environmental impact statement, eight months more than the timeline required by Ottawa.

It is clear that Nova Scotia, not the federal government, will continue to stall and delay the cleanup. We urge Nova Scotia to get on with it and stop delaying the cleanup of Canada's worst hazardous waste site.

Bruno Marcocchio is Atlantic conservation campaign director, Sierra Club of Canada.