Thursday, May 19, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Tar ponds cleanup: for the record


Bruno Marcocchio's recent opinion article ("Nova Scotia, not Ottawa, delaying tar ponds cleanup," May 10) brims with misinformation.

The Joint Action Group's "final recommendation" was not soil washing. Soil washing is not "a series of three technologies." The federal-provincial cleanup plan was not "the option rated least preferable by residents."

Methane produced by organic material in the tar ponds did not "crack the solidified sludge" during technical trials. Ron Russell, minister of transportation and public works, did not say that the provincial government had "never committed to take the JAG recommendation into account."

I could go on, but you get the point. Accurate information is readily available, on the public record, in technical reports at

We have corrected these and similar errors many times, yet Mr. Marcocchio persists in repeating them. Apparently, the facts are inconvenient to his caricature of heartless bureaucrats recklessly pursuing sinister cleanup schemes while ignoring flawless alternatives.

The truth is that there are many safe ways to clean up contaminated sites. Seven years of debate during the JAG process did not produce a clear consensus behind any one of them. The cleanup plan devised by Environment Canada and the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency uses a combination of the technologies presented by JAG. These technologies have proven safe and effective at similar sites throughout the world.

As for who bears responsibility for delay, there is more than enough blame for everyone to share - not least Mr. Marcocchio, with his long record of obstructive tactics and lurid exaggerations.

Fisheries scientists identified the tar ponds as a problem in 1982. Most of the students who graduated from Nova Scotia universities last month had not been born in 1982. Fixing this problem has taken much too long. Everyone involved in the cleanup has a responsibility to bring the project to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.

Parker Donham is spokesman for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.