Fri., July 24, 2009 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Firms to build tar ponds water treatment plant

By TERA CAMUS Cape Breton Bureau

Sydney - Another $15-million slice of the $400-million pie set aside in 2007 to clean up the contaminated Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites was awarded Thursday.

MB2 Excavating and Construction of Membertou and Beaver Marine of Halifax, a branch of McNally International of Ontario, had the winning bid to build a groundwater treatment plant near a contaminated brook with orange water that empties into Sydney Harbour. "This contract will assist the people of Sydney by creating a number of jobs and ensures the greater community will enjoy a safer and more environmentally friendly future," Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia’s representative in the federal cabinet, said in a news release Thursday.

McNally International is known worldwide for its expertise in building tunnels, including the Yonge Street subway in Toronto. Its website says it established Beaver Marine in Halifax after buying the marine assets of several companies in the 1990s.

MB2 Excavating and Construction, which Robin Googoo registered in 2004 according to the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, was most recently involved in a $5-million capping project at a cooling pond near downtown Sydney that contains a mix of chemicals and heavy metals.

Soon after the capping work was completed, the cap sank considerably and repairs cost an estimated $30,000, an official at the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency said earlier this year.

Construction of the groundwater treatment plant is to begin next month and end in May.

The plant is another piece of the remediation puzzle, said Bill Estabrooks, the provincial minister responsible for the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites that were polluted by 100 years of steelmaking. "The community will soon see the overall cleanup plan come to life," he said in a news release Thursday.

Reporters brought to the coke ovens site Thursday were given hard hats, safety goggles and reflective vests and couldn’t leave without having their cars washed.

Donnie Burke, project director at the tar ponds and coke ovens sites, said the new facility will clean the groundwater that now leaves the site carrying potentially harmful chemicals and heavy metals. "On this site, we’re putting on an engineered cover but we know there’s groundwater still moving through the materials because we’re not stabilizing or solidifying it because the contamination doesn’t lend to that," he said. "It’s more PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) on this site, so in saying that, the only impact to human health potential is groundwater moving through the soil. "So we’ll collect the water, bring it through the path of least resistance through a piping network and treat it in a water treatment plant."

Contract manager Claude Goora said about 20,000 cubic metres of sediment — about 2,000 truckloads — will be excavated, down to a depth of four metres in places, and the toxic materials will be removed at a nearby soil-handling facility before the remainder is dumped into the tar ponds. Clean soil will be laid over a pair of 10-centimetre pipes at the coke ovens site that will collect groundwater for the new treatment plant. "There are some soils on the site that are considered contaminated — you wouldn’t put it in your backyard — but where we’re putting a cap over it, a cover, we’ll actually use it as a levelling course that will give us our grade and put it under a clay cap so it’s contained," Mr. Goora said.

Mr. Burke said the water that will eventually flow out of the treatment plant and into the brook, and then into the harbour, will be good enough to drink. "If it meets freshwater discharge criteria, it’s drinkable water," he said. "It would be no different than what you’d take from some of the reservoirs. "They have to meet freshwater criteria so that it protects and promotes human health, wildlife and fish habitat."

Remediation of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites is to be completed by 2014.

Last month, J&T van Zutphen Construction of Southwest Mabou and its partner, EEC of Marlborough, Mass., were awarded a $52-million contract to solidify the tar ponds with a cement mixture of sorts. The work is to begin by October.