CBRM to review environmental assessment options

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Jan. 13, 2005

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will review which option it will support for a necessary environmental assessment of cleanup plans for the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

During a public services committee meeting Wednesday at the Civic Centre, Coun. Vince Hall presented concerns regarding the possibility of a full panel assessment for the planned cleanup project. "I ask the (chief accounting officer) to do a staff report to go over all issues surrounding the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup," said Hall. "We're on the eve of the cleanup plan being announced publicly." Hall said a more responsible approach needs to be taken to bring the community "up to speed."

At issue is how the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will evaluate cleanup plans for the toxic sites. Options include a full panel review of independent experts, a comprehensive study or an environmental screening.

Coun. Wes Stubbert said the tar ponds issue has been studied "more often than cancer. It's been debated in every forum imaginable."

Wednesday's submission by Hall - prepared by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency - reported that some, including Sierra Club of Canada representatives, have said that a full panel review can be completed in less than six months. The report stated that "statements such as this are completely devoid of credibility." Statutory processes alone require a minimum of 13 months to complete a panel review, it continued. "Apart from the time required to appoint its members, one of the biggest problems associated with panel time lines is that the panel can decide, at any time and for any reason, to demand further information, research, study or modelling of any aspect of the project," the document stated. "After having spent more than $20 million on more than 100 studies and investigations over the past seven years, it's hard to imagine that there is anything that hasn't already been adequately studied."

During a recent trip to Cape Breton, Scott Brison, minister of public works and Government Services Canada, said that if the assessment is too simple in its approach and not consistent with precedence, the decision could be exposed to legal action.