Residents don't want tar ponds materials burned at power plant

By T. J. Colello
Cape Breton Post
Monday, June 24, 2003

Residents surrounding the Point Aconi Power Plant sent a clear message to government monday - they are against toxic material from the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites being burned in their area.

"You have to give me a guarantee that what they do will be beneficial for the community and not be harmful," said Bobby Hawley, a resident of Point Aconi. "Nobody has given us that guarantee. "We don't know what effect burning this sludge will have on the community of this area." Hawley was among 100 residents of communities surrounding the plant who voiced their displeasure over the possibility that co-burning of the tar ponds material would take place at the power plant. Residents also filled out a petition against any action.

The meeting was also intended to be a workbook session, as residents were asked to fill out JAG remediation surveys to voice their concerns to government. Some however felt filling out the workbooks would be futile. "(The government) is not going to accept my concern," said one resident.

Dan Fraser, Chair of the Joint Action Group (JAG), said people attending the meeting have the opportunity to voice their concerns to government through the workbooks. "It's very necessary to hear the concerns expressed by the community" he said. "They will be noted and forwarded to our government partners. "People tend to believe that their voice will not be heard. In this case, there is no doubt that their voice will be heard"

Fraser also reiterated that the use of the Point Aconi plant is still just a possibility, and is by no means etched in stone. "I'm not saying for a minute it's coming here," he said. "The possibility does exist as these people have noted, and that's why they have invited us here to talk about their concerns."

The meeting was the result of fears raised by residents neighboring the plant's twin-fluidized bed incinerator. It is the closest off-site incinerator capable of co-burning toxic sludge from the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

JAG made a recommendation to governinents in May to co-burn the waste at a power plant or cement kiln. This was the result of 1,700 responses gathered at workshops attended mostly by residents neighboring the toxic site and not the power plant.

"It's really a personal choice as to which option is more acceptable than another one," said Fraser. "As we do in JAG all the time, we listen to those concerns and try to get the experts involved back to the community and help them ask questions and understand the problem, issues, and concerns." Organic farmer Cyril Welsh, of George's River, was concerned over the burning and how it will effect the good name of agricultural in Cape Breton. "It's like with mad cow disease it affects the whole industry," he said. "Anything that affects the reputation of Cape Breton food is going to affect me as well.

"That's why there are a lot of farmers here tonight - every farmer takes food safety very seriously.'

Monday's meeting was the first in a series that JAG will hold to discuss the issue. The second session will be held tonight at the Alder Point Community Centre. Another meeting will be held Wednesday, July 2 at Bras d'Or Hall, followed by a session Thursday July 3 at the Millville Community Centre and ending with a meeting at the Big Bras d'Or Fire Hall Friday July 4.

All sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end around 9 p.m.