Morgan wonders what comes next

Mayor criticizes lack of post-cleanup plans

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
Mon. Jan. 29, 2007

Sydney - The future use of land now encompassed by the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites remains unclear, even with the official announcement Sunday by the federal and provincial governments that has given the go-ahead for the $400-million cleanup to proceed.

Mayor John Morgan of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality said the project lacks specifics on what types of development the sites could support following a successful cleanup.

"If (the site) is going to support a building, it has to be engineered in a way that supports those structures, so you have to make the future use plan at the outset and not as you approach the end of the project," Morgan told reporters following the announcement at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

"One of the recommendations of the panel review was that there would be a long-term vision for the site, a plan as to what will happen to the site and really there's been nothing with respect to that."

That view isn't shared by Coun. Vince Hall, who said the announcement was one of his "best days in politics so far." He said the proposed port-to-port strategy that could transform the tar ponds and coke ovens sites into light industrial, commercial, recreational and possibly residential uses will take time to develop. , "We had to get today behind us and a lot of this will take shape as we move forward in terms of future site use," Hall said.

But Morgan insisted the province has steered the cleanup to the "very cheapest mechanism possible" with no plans for future use of the site. He said the municipality's vision for the site remains the development of a marine industrial park, which will improve the harbour's transportation link with Sydney's commercial district.

It will take four years, beginning in 2008, to cap toxic materials left over from a century of steelmaking at the coke ovens site. It'll take six years to contain the tar ponds sludge.

However, it hasn't been determined how much weight a capped tar ponds and coke ovens could withstand once the toxic sites are contained in concrete. "We'll take a look at treatability and pilot scale studies to optimize the main mixture (for stabilization)," said Ken Swain, project director for Public Works and Government Services Canada.

The provincial Environment and Labour Minister Mark Parent told the crowd at Membertou he wasn't even sure what the future holds for the large 101-hectare area near downtown Sydney.

"What will become of the former site? Will it be a park or a local business hub or perhaps, as one of my colleagues in the House suggested, a golf course? It's too soon to tell," Parent said.