Friday, August 22, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Worker: Sysco testing tainted
Province's samples mostly contain surface soil, driller says

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

Sydney - Results of a $500,000 environmental testing project for chemicals at Sydney Steel may be tainted, says one worker who quit in recent weeks.

The worker, who wished to remain anonymous, says he quit because testing was not done properly.

"I was there, I saw it," he said.

The worker said some samples, supposed to be taken from the plant's high dump at various depths, were filled with surface soil shovelled into the test tube-like devices called "split spoons." Drill rigs use the spoons to collect soil metres beneath the surface, similar to what a core sample truck does when boring through rock to test for minerals.

Some holes were to collect samples up to 50 metres below the surface of the slag heap that sits like a small mountain on the banks of the toxic tar ponds. But the worker, an experienced driller paid $20 per hour, said the province's samples mostly contain surface soil taken from depths of less than seven metres.

"I can prove it with another drill - there's no samples there for 20 feet, while others there are 60 feet deep," he said.

"Any professional can tell just by looking at the samples collected. . . . It's a major fraud to the Nova Scotia government and to taxpayers, that's what this is and it can be proven."

An arm of Conestoga-Rovers called MGI Ltd. was heading the project but has ended its work on the site. A call to the company office was not returned.

John Traves, president of Sysco, said the province heard of the allegation before the provincial election on Aug. 5 and had its monitoring company, Seacore Environmental, make spot checks.

"They made unscheduled visits and looked at all the stuff," he said. "It doesn't make any sense because if somebody were doing that, it would be apparent in the test results, it wouldn't jive."

Seacore reported no discrepancy, he said.

But another provincial government source also echoed concerns.

"I'm not too impressed with the company," the source said. "They outbid other companies and were drilling three holes a day . . . maybe they were doing so many because they weren't doing them right."

Mr. Traves said the province has yet to receive any test results from the program this summer.