Friday, June 20, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

JAG to reopen talks on toxic cleanup
Boularderie Island residents oppose any sludge burning at Point Aconi

By Matt Hunt Gardner

Sydney - Sydney's Joint Action Group confirmed this week that it will reopen its public consultation on how it should clean up toxic sludge left from years of steel making in the area.

JAG's spokeswoman Germaine LeMoine said Thursday the group will organize a new workbook session to gather Point Aconi residents' opinions about burning the sludge at a nearby power plant.

She said Mark Eyking, MP for that area, asked for the consultation.

"After we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago in Point Aconi with residents, who showed a lot of concern, (Mr. Eyking) sought out our intervention to gather comments from people and to offer them up workbook sessions," she said.

"He wanted to make them feel they can have some input into what might happen."

Boularderie Island residents, though, are fuming over the possible burning of toxic tar ponds sludge at the Point Aconi power plant. More than 100 were present at that meeting.

"I'm totally against the idea," says Big Bras d'Or resident Lloyd MacLeod. "They have the facilities in Sydney to burn the stuff. To bring it to Point Aconi would mean shipping it through two or three residential areas, and right next to the Pottles Lake Reservoir, which is a big no no."

In May, the Joint Action Group recommended to government that co-burning contaminated sediments would be the best option to clean up parts of the Muggah Creek watershed.

The process would burn sludge at the plant, while creating electricity for Nova Scotia Power.

Point Aconi is a possible spot to perform the co-burning.

The new workbook sessions will cost approximately $15,000 for photocopying and hall rentals. The workbooks will be handed to government with the cleanup options that have been selected.

"If government (says) . . . it's safe for the people who live in the (area north of the coke ovens), then it must be safe to co-burn at Point Aconi. They tell us it's safe to live in our area, so it must be safe to transport the sludge and to burn it in an open kiln in the Point Aconi area," said Ann Ross of Whitney Pier.

Parker Donham, spokesman for the Sydney Tar Pond's Agency, and a Boularderie Island resident, says the province is prepared to listen to people's concerns.

He said Thursday that the last public meeting "doesn't sound like it was successful at calmly and rationally examining the information that is out there on the co-burning option."

He says he's 100 per cent comfortable with burning sludge at Point Aconi. He points out, though, that his house is on the opposite end of Boularderie Island and farther away from Point Aconi than downtown Sydney.

Mr. Eyking's home and family egg farm is much closer to Point Aconi.

In the past he's told residents to trust JAG's safety and risk assessments. His office didn't respond to questions Thursday.

The recommendation to co-burn the sludge - toxic with arsenic, lead, and fuel-based chemicals, among other pollutants - has not yet been approved by government, nor has Point Aconi been chosen as one of the final sights to burn it.