MP tries to get details from minister about tar ponds cleanup

Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

It'a crucial but awkward time to convince Ottawa to proceed with the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites, says a Cape Breton MP.

"We hoped to have it on the table before the leadership change," said Liberal Mark Eyking, who represents Sydney-Victoria. "It's easier to have it done now."

Although leadership hopeful Paul Martin committed to cleaning up the toxic sites previously, said Eyking, it would be smoother if a technology and cost were agreed on before Prime Minister Jean Chretien resigned from his post in the coming months.

That's why Eyking posed a question to Environment Minister David Anderson in the House of Commons Thursday.

The MP said that since cleanup recommendations were forwarded by the Joint Action Group in May, would the minister tell the House what the next steps will be leading to the final cleanup of the hazardous waste site.

Anderson replied that Ottawa is reviewing the recommendations with the Nova Scotia government which leads the cleanup.

We are looking at environment considerations, health considerations, length of time it will take to deal with the problem to clean up and also issues (related to) future site use, and of course we're looking at issues to the public and of course costs," Anderson replied.

Eyking said no timelines were given and cost estimates remain unknown.
"I have mixed reactions," he said. "Sometimes you feel you have more impact because you're in government. But I can't kid myself. I'm not in cabinet. It would have been nice for him to say an amount and a technology but he couldn't do that."

Eyking said getting Ottawa's attention is particularly difficult for MPs now because of concerns relating to SARS and mad cow disease.
"It's very competitive."

The Joint Action Group recommended that contaminated waste from the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites be removed and destroyed.

The recommendation was the result of a community consultation process that involved 1,754 Cape Breton Regional Municipality residents. They were asked to respond to a workbook outlining technologies available.