Cape Bretoners will finally learn how tar ponds will be cleaned up

Federal, provincial ministers to converge on convention centre Sunday

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Sat. Jan. 27, 2007

SYDNEY - Membertou will be the stage for a major announcement that will officially transform years of cleanup talk into a government project.

Ministers from the federal and provincial governments will converge at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre at 2 p.m., Sunday to outline how the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens will proceed.

Angus MacIsaac, minister of transportation and public works, and Mark Parent, minister of environment and labour, will attend from the province. Michael Fortier, minister of public works and government services, and Peter MacKay, minister of foreign affairs and minister of Atlantic Canada’s Opportunities Agency, will attend from the federal government. Mark Warawa, parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister John Baird will also be in attendance.

In community liaison committee minutes posted on the Sydney Tar Pond Agency’s website in November, Ken Swain, project director at Public Works and Government Services Canada, said the federal government appeared to be in agreement with the vast majority of panel recommendations made in July and that Ottawa is relatively on the "same wavelength" as the province.

The panel recommended the community be prepared to manage the sites indefinitely; that more studies be conducted before contaminates are solidified in cement; that incineration could be carried out safely but the method should be weighed against keeping PCBs in place; that the finished product be able to sustain future development as part of the project design.

Swain added there may has been some pessimism in the past but there are lots of indicators for success. The minutes reported the panel review process cost $5.1 million, which was close to budget.

Parker Donham, spokesperson for the tar ponds agency, said he was vehemently opposed to a panel review because he was concerned there would be a three or four-year delay. "However, this has been proven wrong and we are very happy with the decision," he was recorded to say. "Some of the recommendations pushed us in the right direction and have a lot of merit." Swain added a panel review is the highest form of assessment and is the most legally defensible.

Grand Lake Road resident Ron Marman said he’s pleased governments are "finally making the announcement. "

Cape Bretoners had originally been told an answer from government would come by the end of December.

Marman faithfully attended three weeks of joint review panel hearings held in 2006 in hopes of convincing panel members that the community would not support the incineration of PCB contaminated waste. If governments have dropped incineration from the cleanup plan and opt to fully encapsulate the sites, the cost-saving would be about $73 million. "Why spend $73 million to make people unhappy," said Marman. "Spend the money to help people around the area who have to live with this mess."