Nothing's Safer Than What's Proposed

Sierra's Choice Of Thermal Treatments Has Serious Drawbacks
By Glenn Hanam - Weekend Feedback
Cape Breton Post
Saturday, March 29, 2003

I have seen the Sierra Club's take on the Joint Action Group shortlist of options, and it's pretty much what I expected.

It seems to me to be this: the options are bad, incineration is bad, landfilling is bad, the Canadian regulatory system is bad; JAG is bad, government is bad, and Cape Bretoners are too stunned to be allowed to make their own decisions.

It should be obvious by now that the Sierra Club does not want the tar ponds cleaned up, at least not soon, and that it doesn't give Cape Bretoners much credit.

If we had all the time in the world we could afford to wait out the Sierra Club. Unfortunately, while it delays and obstructs and spreads confusion, the environmental and economic damage goes on.

Each year, 17.5 tonnes more of contaminants pour into Sydney Harbour from the Tar Ponds. Each year another 1,250 or so young, highly educated Cape Bretoners leave here, taking our future with them.

We need the Tar Ponds removed as a source of ecological contamination and as a psychological obstacle to economic activity, and we need it done now.

Most of the Informationm the article by Bruno Marcocchio is nonsense (Weekend Feedback: Cleanup Options Short of Promise, March 22). No matter how many times you repeat nonsense, it is still nonsense.

I was directly involved in the evaluation process. There is no alternative safer than the options listed.

The Eco-Logic process he proposes to use is untried at this scale. It has been used only since 1986 to process about 2,730 tonnes worldwide. It would have to be scaled up significantly to be useful for cleaning up the bulk of the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens material.

Such a scale-up is technically difficult, and significant risks to the health and safety of workers and near by residents would likely be involved.

Using information from the Eco Logic Web site, I calculate that, using its latest full-scale stationary unit, it would take 22 years to process the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens material and it would cost $1.3 billion.

The process is higher temperature range thermal desorption. Emissions of dioxins and furans from it have been somewhat comparable to that of other thermal processes, such as conventional thermal desorption, incineration, pyrolysis, and plasma.

It is misleading to describe the process as having "almost no emissions." The methane generated by this process is incinerated on site.

If the carbon content just from the Tar Ponds were all converted to methane using this process, it would generate more than 20 million cubic of emissions.

It is unlikely that the sediment and soil residues would meet regulatory requirements for clean fill, so a land fill somewhere would be required, probably on the Coke Ovens site.

There are other potential disadvantages to the use of hydrogen reduction, as there are with all of the high temperature treatment processes. But that it is unproven at large scale is the main reason for it being passed over for the cleanup of the bulk of the Tar Ponds sediment and the Coke Ovens soil.

I am not against using the hydrogen reduction technology, but I think it should be kept in perspective.

It is just another thermal treatment process, and any of them can be used if sound emission standards are closely controlled.

JAG proposes it for possible use on PCB material where the scale-up factor is realistic and the low throughput is not such a problem.

I assume that Mr. Marcocchio is reasonably intelligent and reasonably well informed, and that he is aware of all of this information.

That being the case, I can see no ready explanation for his article.

My wish for him is that he find some way to amuse himself that is less destructive to the hopes and wishes of the other people who share this beautiful island with him.

Glenn Hanam Is chair of the Remedial Options Working Group,
part of the Joint Action Group on the Muggah Creek Cleanup.