Tue, June 3, 2008 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Tar ponds activist DeLeski dies in hospital at age 62

By Tera Camus Cape Breton Bureau (The Canadian Press)

Sydney - Cape Breton activist Don DeLeski spoke volumes when he stood on the shores of the notorious tar ponds in 1999 with shovel and bucket in hand.

The community activist had suffered from a lengthy illness and died Sunday at age 62.

Nine years ago, DeLeski staged his one-man cleanup at the contamination site, wading into the tar ponds and scooping out sludge to show concern over inaction on behalf of both the provincial and federal governments in remediating the toxic mess left by a century of steelmaking.

A resident of Sydney's Whitney Pier district, DeLeski died in hospital early Sunday.

"Don's focus was always the health side of things and what came out of those (Sydney steel) stacks did affect people," said friend and fellow activist Eric Brophy. "Don was involved with the tar ponds file a way back to when it first started. He was one of the local people, he and his brother, and a gentleman by the name of John Nardocchio."

DeLeski staged multiple hunger strikes prior to his bucket-and-shovel cleanup, in an attempt to force Ottawa and the province to relocate and compensate people living near the tar ponds and former coke ovens site.

"It's a great tragic loss and this community is missing one outstanding citizen," said Brophy.

"We all know what Don did to bring the focus back to the need to clean up to protect the people, especially those living in the immediate area