Friday, May 30, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Sydney cleanup group's chairman says it will still have a role to play

By Chris Shannon

Sydney - The group established six years ago to give residents a say into the tar ponds cleanup faces an uncertain future now that cleanup options have been passed on to government.

The Joint Action Group's contract expires in September, and there have been rumours the province and federal government will not renew it for another five years.

JAG chairman Dan Fraser insisted Wednesday that JAG still has a role to play.

"If you look at our mission statement, it clearly indicates that we should be involved in the implementation phase of the cleanup."

JAG will meet with its government partners on June 9 to discuss its future and how community involvement will be part of the continuing cleanup process.

JAG members questioned whether the province was the sole decision-maker in this process.

David Darrow, chief executive for the provincial Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said he hopes the federal government gives its input into the future of JAG as well, but wouldn't speculate on JAG's future.

"What I can tell you is that we are interested in hearing from the volunteers who have spent so much time on this project over the past six or more years."

(JAG has members from all three levels of government as well as community volunteers.)

Earlier this month a government-funded report on the community's preference for incineration also showed the public has grown tired of JAG.

Of the 881 people who filled out the survey, only 79 said they'd like to see JAG continue to exist beyond 2004.

The organization was formed out of public protest because of a 1995 plan by the federal government to bury the toxic sludge.

That idea was rejected a year later, and JAG was created to let the public decide what to do with Sydney's toxic waste, the result of decades of steelmaking.