Thurs, Aug. 7, 2008 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Report: Tar Ponds cleanup working
Prompted by Sydney woman, agency publishes 70 pages of information on its website

By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau

SYDNEY — More than 70 pages of information missing from the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency’s publication about the work done on the cooling pond appeared on its website Wednesday.

The full report was completed in June but was only made public after a local woman told the media the document seemed to be missing key information.

An interim report completed in April was published initially, agency president Frank Potter said Wednesday. He said the first version was put out in May so the public would be kept informed.

The interim report was given out at public meetings about the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site.

The full report measures the success of the cleanup done at the cooling pond, which started last November. Crews pumped out the water that had been used to chill the hot metal from the steel mills.

A special concrete compound was mixed into the sludge to harden it and prevent anything from leaching out into the surrounding earth.

The report released by the agency tested the strength of the hardened cooling pond, its permeability and how well it kept contaminants from leaching out.

All the information showed that the project had met or exceeded their targets, Mr. Potter said.

The Sydney woman concerned about the missing information said she’s happy it has now been made public.

But the report should not have been published until it was complete, Marlene Kane said. "They should at least have waited until they had all those amounts before they went to the great expense of publishing a report that had basically no data," she said.

The interim report showed the results from only two of the 12 areas that had been tested for strength but included none of the information measuring its permeability or leachate levels.

The report released Wednesday includes most of that information, although it only includes the leachate results from four of the areas.

Some of the samples may have decreased in strength because the report did not specify the maximum strength over the testing period. Ms. Kane said that makes her concerned about the project’s long-term success.

She said she wants to know how often tests will be performed in the future to make sure the sludge and concrete are still solid enough to prevent anything from leaching out.

Mr. Potter said the agency has to monitor the cooling pond and the tar ponds for 25 years. The exact details of how often tests will be conducted are still being developed, he said.

The total cost of the cleanup is pegged at $400 million. Construction and cleanup costs of the cooling pond were estimated to be about $4.6 million. Mr. Potter said the project came in only about $7,000 over budget.