Coke ovens site will soon have new look

Cape Breton Post
Thursday, July 8, 2003

Starting today, the remnants of a century of steelmaking will be snipped, scooped and shuffled off-site as cleanup efforts at the coke ovens site continue.

Walter van Veen, a project management consultant, said a crew from Joe Parsons Contracting Ltd. in Glace Bay was hired to cut down and remove surface debris scattered across some 60 hectates of highly-contaminated land. "Instead of looking like a wasteland, it will simply look like a flat piece of property, " van Veen told the Cape Breton Post during a walking tour Monday. "It's amazing what a bulldozer can do to make an ugly piece of property look.good."

He pointed to a cement wall that once contained a sulfur pile. It was easy to see that over time, the material had eaten away a layer of concrete from the wall and what remained was an unsafe structure, easily able to crumble to the ground. Van Veen said the structure will be snipped into transportable blocks and dumped at the neighbouring Sysco property to be used for erosion protection. The metal will also be recycled and will likely land in Japan. Any brick laying around the site will be picked up and used to fill holes that travel between 15 and 20 feet and lead to tunnels that remain below, he added. Lumber scattered throughout the property will also be gathered, tested and transported to a nearby landfill.

A rusted oil tank recently cleaned will soon be chopped up and removed. A large cooling structure used during the Benzol plant operation will also be scrapped and removed. In addition, concrete from what remains of a trestle used at one time to transport coal to the Sysco property will also be torn down. "You're looking at history right here," said van Veen. "I think some people will miss it."

For a number of coke ovens workers employed at the site before it was closed in the late 1980s, the property still represents fond memories, noted van Veen. Some reminders will be left behind. A large, white water tank visible from Victoria Road will remain on the property in case it's needed during the overall cleanup, he said.

Two underground chambers made of concrete that measure eight feet high, about 200 feet wide and 40 feet long will also remain on site. About 500 feet of tunnels and a maze of pipes that exist below the surface will also stay.

In total, about 140 truckloads of debris will be removed during the work, estimated to take about eight weeks at a cost of around $280,000. Up to 10 people and several pieces of heavy equipment will be used.

Strict control will protect the health and safety of workers and the surrounding community. Realtime dust meters will monitor air quality in the work area as well as the site's perimeter, van Veen said. The gear will measure fine dust as well as volatile organic compounds such as benzene and napthalene.

Other work will include the construction of a containment structure for the Domtar tank.

Clean Harbors, an Ontario company, is building a containment structure designed to control emissions while workers remove water, sludge and solids from the tank.