Friday, July 16, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

The $400-million cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site will take 10 years.

Cleanup consultant sought
Engineering study will be used to guide remediation of toxic site


SYDNEY - The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency put out a call for proposals this week for an environmental engineering consultant to help define a plan for cleaning up the tar ponds and coke ovens.

Parker Donham, agency spokesman, said the project should be ready for an environmental assessment this fall.

Ottawa and the province have committed $400 million to clean up the sites but the May announcement didn't include an engineering plan for the 10-year project, which Mayor John Morgan of Cape Breton Regional Municipality has criticized.

Mr. Morgan was wary Wednesday about community involvement in the definition process.

He said the federal and provincial governments have historically practised "extremism" when it comes to community consultation.

"There have been two kinds of extremism. At the beginning of the process, a number of years ago, there was virtually no consultation with the community. . . . Then you had, with the Joint Action Group, an unending process of consultation but where no decision was ever made.

"They need to find something in the middle wherein you have a reasonable process of consultation with elected members but with very fixed timelines and clear guidelines for decision-making," the mayor said.

Mr. Donham said the community liaison committee won't be a decision-making body but more of a sounding board for the consultant and some other agency or Crown corporation that will together design the cleanup.

Mr. Morgan said involving the community in decision-making is important.

"Otherwise the community is disempowered, and it makes them feel that they're not part of the process and they distrust government institutions."

Mr. Donham said new measures will be implemented to make the tar ponds agency more responsive to the community, including an improved website and a new office on Charlotte Street.