Tues., June 30, 2008 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

No proof tar ponds plan works, Greens say

By TERA CAMUS Cape Breton Bureau

Sydney - The federal Green party is not happy with a $52-million project to solidify the goo in the Sydney tar ponds.

The project, announced Friday, is to begin this fall, employing about 40 people.

But Green Leader Elizabeth May said no money should be spent on attempts to harden the 700,000 tonnes of contaminated sludge until a method has been proven to be safe and reliable. "This solidification and stabilization technology, which essentially is stirring concrete into the sediment, has never been used anywhere in the world on sediments so heavily contaminated with coal," Ms. May said in a news release. "The sediments are about 50 per cent coal, and according to the expert witnesses at the environmental panel hearings (in 2006), the coal will prevent the sediment from solidifying."

Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay and provincial MLA Gordie Gosse announced details of the five-year contract Friday.

Nordly’s Environmental, a new consortium led by J&T van Zutphen Construction Inc. of Mabou and its partner, ECC of Marlborough, Mass., plan to come up with a recipe to harden the gooey sludge now sitting under water in downtown Sydney. The sludge contains several chemicals and heavy metal concentrations, including hot spots with PCBs. John van Zutphen said Friday that a formula containing the right mix of cement and fly ash has yet to be perfected. "We do have a formula that works, but we need to refine that formula to make it more efficient," he said.

The contract, to be carried out by 2014, is the largest awarded since the federal and provincial governments pledged $400 million in 2007 to remediate the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

Ms. May said she is disappointed that the governments are not listening to the recommendations that came out of an extensive environmental review in 2006. "I have serious concerns about the increased health risks to the nearby residents as a result of the government’s plan," Ms. May said. "The problem is that as the sludge will not be enclosed, the technique will cause volatilization of dangerous PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) as the sun hits the sediment. People living around this area can expect headaches and similar reactions as they are exposed to these chemicals.

"The risks to the community are high and the benefits low. Many more jobs could have been created in cleaning up the estuary and the contaminated backyards properly." ( tcamus@herald.ca)