Sat., July 8, 2006 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Tar ponds cleanup delayed


SYDNEY - A major cleanup of the cooling pond at the old steel plant site, originally scheduled for completion this year, may not begin until 2007, according to a spokesman with the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.

"There's been some slippage in the schedule for sure," said Parker Donham on Friday afternoon.

"We would like to get it started late this summer or in the fall, but there isn't a lot of slack time left in the schedule and it's conceivable that the project could be put off until next spring."

Mr. Donham said before the cleanup of the 122-metre-wide pond starts, the agency must study the technical merits of each bid, evaluate proposed costs and local economic benefits packages and then call in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to conduct an audit on the winning bid.

The pond cleanup is unique in that bidding companies must have more than 50 per cent aboriginal ownership.

Mr. Donham said the winning bidder must then be given time to assemble its cleanup equipment and hire workers.

"Normally a construction contract is really simple to evaluate in that you open the envelope, you look at the price, you check the addition and make sure they didn't make any arithmetic errors and you give it to the lowest bidder," he said. "In this case the contract is much more complicated to evaluate."

In an interview with The Chronicle Herald in late April, agency engineer Carol Cunningham said she expected the cleanup of the cooling pond, which began collecting sludge in 1912, to begin sometime this month and wrap up in November or December.

"We were more confident then," said Mr. Donham. "I don't have the same level of confidence that I had a month ago on that score."

When asked who was responsible for the "slippage in the schedule," Mr. Donham said time was lost because "bidders requested clarification on certain points and so addendums were issued to the tender."

The deadline for proposals was extended to June 20 from June 6 at which time four companies had submitted bids.

The proposed cleanup includes dismantling a pumphouse, pipes and cribwork, hardening the pond's sludge using an additive such as cement powder, and covering the site with soil.