Sludge not coming here

By George Mathewson
The Observer - Sarnia
Sept. 3, 2004

Sarnia-Lambton residents who fought the importation of hazardous waste from Nova Scotia -- the so-called toxic sludge -- are savouring victory today.

Officials have acknowledged the contaminated material from a Domtar holding tank near the Sydney tar ponds has been shipped to an incinerator in Quebec, ending a controversy that's simmered for nearly two years. "That's great. I'm really happy it's not coming here and I think everyone else is," said Harry Rainsberry, a member of the citizen group People's Organization Wanting Environmental Responsibility.

POWER and other opponents came together after The Observer reported in November of 2002 that a $3.6-million contract had been signed to import up to 3,800 tonnes of hazardous waste. Backed by MPP Caroline Di Cocco, POWER handed out thousands of "Stop the Toxic Sludge" signs and staged protests at the gate of the Safety-Kleen (now Clean Harbors) landfill near Brigden. They didn't let up even after it became apparent the sand and gravel contaminated with coal tar was less hazardous than much of what Clean Harbors accepts.

Parker Donham, a spokesperson with the co-ordinating Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, acknowledge Sarnia's opposition forced the change in plans. "Because of the tar ponds label that was falsely put upon it, people in Sarnia really got up in arms about it," Donham said. "In part, I think Caroline Di Cocco misled them. I think she was happy to have people believe that it was tar ponds material when it was not."

Di Cocco said this morning the local fight forced Nova Scotia officials to realize that shipping hazardous waste across the country is not a good idea. "Of course he's upset," she said of Donham's criticism. "It made it more expensive and it made it more difficult for them. I've often said, public support and political will can move mountains, and in this case we stopped it."

Di Cocco said the sludge saga focused attention on regulations that make it economical to transport untreated hazardous waste to Ontario for landfilling. The Liberal government will be announcing new regulations shortly that require pre-treatment, she said.

Although pleased by the victory, Rainsberry said he won't rest until both the landfill and incinerator at Clean Harbors are shut down. "That plume was blowing right over Sarnia (on Thursday)," he said. "They shouldn't be bringing that crap here. I just can't understand it."