Keep review in-house, says councillor
CBRM councillor Vince Hall is concerned an
independent review of the tar ponds cleanup will
take longer than needed.
Hall worried outside expert may jeopardize cleanup project
By MATT HUNT GARDNER
SYDNEY - A councillor is pushing for Cape Breton Regional Municipality to press
for a comprehensive in-house review of the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke
ovens sites instead of having an independent expert do a more extensive
"We're at a critical crossroads and my gut tells me that if we go for a panel
review, we'll gum up the whole project," Vince Hall said from his home Monday.
Mr. Hall was a municipal representative in the former Joint Action Group, which
examined cleanup options for the sites.
"I'm concerned about the unknown of that process," he said. "The expert may be
someone far removed from the issue and lead us all down an unknown path and put
the (cleanup) project in jeopardy."
A consulting company the provincial government hired is drafting a technical
definition of the work to be done during the cleanup. Details are expected to
be made public in mid-January.
After a legally required one-month public review, the departments of Public
Works, Government Services and Environment would then decide what type of
further review is necessary. Their options are a simple screening, a
comprehensive in-house review that would include some public consultation, or a
full-panel review led by an independent expert and with extensive public
"Federal officials have said a full-panel review of a middle-of-the-road project
takes on average 20 months," Mr. Hall said. "I think I speak for the vast
majority of the community when I say that we need to see the cleanup started
sooner rather than later."
Mr. Hall wants regional council to discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting. He
has e-mailed Mayor John Morgan asking him to direct municipal staff to examine
environmental review options and present a report to council.
Mr. Morgan couldn't be contacted Monday.
The provincial government and Sydney's chamber of commerce have said they'd
rather the comprehensive review because they feel it would mean the cleanup
would happen sooner.
The Sierra Club of Canada's Cape Breton chapter is pushing for a full-panel
Spokesman Bruno Marcocchio has said each full-panel review has a different
timeline and there is no way to know how long a full-panel review for this
project would take.
A full-panel review is the only type of environmental review that would allow
alternatives to incineration to be examined, Mr. Marcocchio said.
The provincial agency leading the cleanup has said the worst of the sites' toxic
substances would be burned in a mobile incinerator, a cleanup option the Sierra
Club doesn't support.
The tar ponds and coke ovens sites are left over from 100 years of steelmaking.
The chemicals that remain are a mixed brew of heavy metals like lead and
There are 700,000 tonnes of sludge rich with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons inside the two tar ponds. The 72-hectare coke ovens site also
contains 300,000 tonnes of waste containing toxins.
The federal and provincial governments have committed $400 million to clean up