Thurs., Oct. 6, 2005 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Donham: Environmentalists in way of cleanup
By Jocelyn Bethune

A spokesman for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency says environmentalists are hampering efforts to clean up the toxic site.

"This beautifully illustrates how control has trumped common sense and made solving this problem vastly more difficult," Parker Donham said Tuesday evening. Mr. Donham was responding to an announcement by the New Brunswick government that it has prohibited a Belledune, N.B., company from accepting the contents of the Domtar tank, a left-over from the days of the Dominion Tar and Chemical Co. that contained tarry liquids and solids.

The project to empty and dismantle the tank and an attached containment building has been underway for three years. The structures were finally dismantled last month, and the contractor, Clean Harbours Canada, had reached an agreement to send the sludge to a high-temperature thermal oxider treatment plant in New Brunswick, Mr. Donham said. "The discussions to take the material had initially been approved. But now that's been rescinded," said Mr. Donham, who described the material as very routine - just soil mixed with coal tar. He blames local environmentalists for interfering. "They use emotionally loaded words like toxic train and witch's brew of materials. It's coal tar. People put it on their driveways, and to call it anything else is absurd. This only makes the cleanup harder and makes it take longer," he said.

A news release issued by the New Brunswick Department of the Environment and Local Government late Tuesday evening said that following a review submitted by Bennett Environmental Inc., the Ontario company that operates the facility in Belledune, the government concluded it could not accept the Domtar material. "The department does not believe this material meets condition No. 3 of the environmental impact assessment determination, dated Jan. 17, 2003, which states, the proponent is authorized to import creosote and non-chlorinated hydrocarbon soil only," the release said.

Paul Fournier, regional director with the New Brunswick Environment Department, said approval to import the material had been given, but more information came to the department's attention, and officials concluded the material did not fit the original description. He declined to say where the additional information came from.

In the meantime, Mr. Donham says, the tar ponds agency says the problem is one for the contractor Clean Harbours. "We recognize that it's a problem for them. We require that the material go to a licensed facility, but beyond that, where they take it is up to them," Mr. Donham said.

A spokesman at Clean Harbours Canada in Sarnia forwarded the request for an interview to senior officials Wednesday, but none had returned phone calls by Wednesday evening. In the fall of 2003, Clean Harbours planned to send coal-tar oil to Stelco's steel plant in Nanticoke, Ont. But the material was rejected because Environment Canada labelled it hazardous waste.

Much of the 1,500 tonnes of sludge is sitting in rail cars at the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia rail yard.