Sierra Club director alarmed at tar pond cleanup strategy

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Friday., Jan. 7, 2005

An environmental activist is alarmed by proposed cleanup strategies revealed this week for the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

"Many aspects are troubling," said Bruno Marcocchio, Atlantic Canada regional campaign director for the Sierra Club of Canada.

The fact that the site for a mobile incinerator has yet to be disclosed is disturbing and so is the plan to landfarm on the coke ovens site with people living nearby, he said.

In a tender issued by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, a summary of proposed cleanup imethods outlined that a mobile incinerator will operate off-site for about five years. It'll be used to burn some contaminants at both sites and other parts of Muggah Creek.

Containment walls will also line the areas to prevent contamination from entering or leaving the sites. As well, landfarming will be used for parts of the coke ovens site remediation efforts. Solidification, stabilization and capping are the final methods planned to remediate the sites.

Incineration is completely unacceptable, especially when the island's current incinerator isn't meeting its permit requirements when it comes to dioxin and furan emissions, said Marcocchio.

He also questioned how capable the provincial Environment Department is at regulating the environment. "Burn and bury was the least favourable option," continued Marcocchio. "It's supposed to be a cleanup, not a coverup." He believes the Joint Action Group was merely a tactic implemented by governments to stall the cleanup.

In May 2004, JAG conducted community consultation to determine the most preferred cleanup options. The community responded by stating that its preferred cleanup method is to co-burn the toxic sludge from the Sydney tar ponds at a power plant or cement kiln. Pretreating contaminated waste before it was destroyed was included in the preferred method. In general, the consensus was that contamination at the site should be removed and destroyed.

Dan Fraser, JAG's former chairperson, said he wasn't surprised by the cleanup methods proposed in the tender. "Throughout the process, it was understood that government would have the final say" said Fraser. "I'm happy they finally made an announcement, that they are moving forward and getting the job done." Fraser said a majority of people won't be upset by the proposed strategies and are looking forward to the work getting started.