Wednesday, September 17, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

C.B., Quebec residents pan toxin burning

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau and The Canadian Press

It seems no one wants Sydney's toxic waste burned in their backyard.

A report by the Joint Action Group released Tuesday shows people living near the Point Aconi power plant, like the majority of those living in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, don't want toxic sludge from the coke ovens or tar ponds sites going up in smoke over their homes.

"As testimony to their resolve, a few made statements about civil disobedience," the report said.

It noted opponents to the proposal cited concerns about air quality and the risk of spills or damage to the local farm and egg producers market. They also didn't want Sydney's problem transported to them, a half-hour's drive away.

Nova Scotia Power hasn't yet said it wants to burn the toxic sludge, but its facility was among the few sites identified by JAG consultants that can burn at temperatures high enough to handle the waste generated by 100 years of steelmaking.

Most of the residents living near the power plant favour burying the toxic waste, going against the recommendation JAG made to the federal and provincial governments after a public consultation process that involved 1,700 other voices in the municipality.

In May, JAG followed the public's lead and endorsed off-site incineration as the best way to handle the toxic waste. It also endorsed other technologies.

Dan Fraser, chairman of JAG, said the report won't change JAG's recommendation. A specific location for off-site burning has not been chosen by government, nor has a cleanup method been selected. It has until next year to do so.

"This will go to our government partners so they're aware of the feelings and concerns of the people of Point Aconi," he said.

Meanwhile, near Montreal, the company that is incinerating as many as 30 truckloads of toxic sludge from the coke ovens' Domtar tank - a mini-tar ponds now being removed from Sydney as part of a $3-million government contract - will allow independent testing of the material after residents and the Mercier town council complained.

Last week, the council in the town of 9,750 people 30 kilometres southeast of Montreal asked the firm, Clean Harbors Inc., to voluntarily stop destroying the sludge to allow a private firm to analyse it and the ash after it's incinerated.

Guy Adam, vice-president of Clean Harbors Inc., said Monday the firm is ready to co-operate "as long as this is done in a reasonable time so we can meet our contractual obligations."

But Mr. Adam has refused a request by council to halt operations until the test results are known. Another truckload from Sydney is arriving this week.

Mr. Adam insisted the company's laboratory checks toxicity levels daily along with the Quebec Environment Department. So far 10 truckloads have been burned.