Monday, August 11, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Martin's ships blamed for dirty homes
Leadership hopeful heads firm that ships coal to Sydney area

By Matt Hunt Gardner

Ronald Pearson won't picnic with Liberal leadership front-runner Paul Martin this week because he's too busy dealing with his dirty home.

Mr. Martin will be in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality on Wednesday for a barbecue at the Two Rivers Wildlife Park.

Mr. Pearson says it's Mr. Martin who should be barbecued.

The former steelworker, who lives downwind from the former Devco coal piers in Sydney, blames Mr. Martin's coal transport ships for continuously coating his Tartan Street home with a fine black dust.

"We were all a lot better off before they started hauling in coal on Paul Martin's ships," he said.

"We get dust and dirt every time we get a westerly wind. I see those CSL (Canada Steamship Lines) ships in the harbour all the time. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where that stuff comes from," he said.

He is one of several residents who've made the complaint.

As federal finance minister in the 1990s, Mr. Martin cut funding to Devco, forcing it to close. Because coal and petcoke were no longer available locally, Nova Scotia Power and its parent company Emera, were forced to import them.

Canada Steamship Lines won that contract and now carries three million tonnes of coal and petcoke to Nova Scotia every year, with most of it landing at the former Devco pier off Dominion Street, now owned by Emera.

Mr. Martin has promised to transfer control of the shipping firm to his sons, but his lawyers and accountants are still trying to figure out the best way to do it.

This winter provincial inspectors charged the coal pier's stevedoring company - hired by Emera to move coal and coke to Nova Scotia Power plants from CSL ships - after dozens of homes on several streets were coated by petcoke, a fine black dust that is a byproduct of petroleum refining.

That incident occurred in February after one of Paul Martin's cargo ships unloaded the coal-like product, overfilling a hopper on the coal pier in the process.

The stevedoring company pleaded guilty and was fined $12,000.

Sydney environmentalist and Sierra Club representative Bruno Marcocchio said the group will be advising Mr. Martin on several environmental issues in Cape Breton, including the cumulative impact on residents' health because of the dust from the piers.

Municipal councillor Jim Mac-Leod said he'd speak to Mr. Martin in private about the matter.

Mr. Pearson said the dust this winter was so bad he had to pay $450 to repaint his siding. He said he will probably have to do it again next year.