Wednesday, December 8, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio is calling for a full panel review of the cleanup, which would involve an outside expert.

Hamm rejects full review of tar ponds cleanup
Premier favours internal study


SYDNEY - Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm says the province doesn't support a full-panel review of the process to be used to clean up Sydney's tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

"This piece of geography has been studied more than any other single piece of geography of which I am familiar," he said.

"I'm in favour of a full environmental review, not a full panel assessment."

Sydney's two toxic tar ponds, covering 32 hectares in the downtown core, and the nearby 72-hectare coke ovens site are the result of 100 years of steelmaking under private and public ownership.

The chemicals that remain are a mixture of heavy metals like lead and arsenic and the tar ponds' 700,000 tonnes of sludge, which contain contaminated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

There are 300,000 tonnes of sludge at the coke ovens.

In April, the province announced it would contribute $120 million to the cleanup of the sites.

The federal government said it would kick in $280 million.

According to the provincial agency in charge of the cleanup, the worst contaminants will be dug up and burned in a mobile, high-temperature PCB incinerator.

The other contaminants at the sites will be treated and capped underground.

On Nov. 15, consultants AMEC Earth and Environmental will deliver to the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency a new draft of the technical definition of work to be done.

Representative Parker Donham said if the agency doesn't see any problems, the draft will be sent to Ottawa for approval.

He said that likely sometime in January, the definition will be released to the public.

Residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality would have a month to point out any potential environmental effects of the cleanup that the report might have missed.

Mr. Donham said the federal government would then decide what type of review is necessary - a screening by government, a more extensive comprehensive internal review or a full panel review conducted by an appointed expert.

The premier said the province will push for a comprehensive study.

"I personally have been urging our federal partners to move with haste," Mr. Hamm said.

"The examination and the analysis of the tar ponds and coke ovens is well documented. There have been over 900 public meetings on this issue. It's time to get moving."

But Sydney environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio, who sparred with the premier after the event, said a full panel review is warranted.

Mr. Marcocchio said the technology chosen by the two levels of government won't adequately clean up the sites.

He said he'd rather the government move forward with methods recommended by the Joint Action Group, a community and government group that studied ways to clean up the sites after the initial attempt to incinerate the sludge in the Tar Ponds failed.

"The only level of assessment that can address broader issues, including alternatives, is a full panel review," he said.

"Whether that can change the focus of this remains to be seen."

Mr. Marcocchio said the province has created a situation in which residents can't help but want the cleanup to be over and done with.

"The community has lost its interest because this has been dragged on endlessly," he said.

"How do you expect the citizens of the CBRM to take (the cleanup) seriously when they engaged in a six-year process that at the end of the day the provincial government said it was going to choose to ignore?"

Mr. Donham calls it "consultation fatigue" but says that residents would rather see the provincial and federal governments go ahead with proven methods, rather than have the process be bogged down with more needless consultation.