Extreme, costly measures to clean up tar ponds not necessary

Cape Breton Post
letter by Vic Dawson
Wed. Feb. 4, 2009

Cleaning up the tar ponds is not a job; it is a vocation! There will be good paycheques as long as participants can think up any reason to extend the project by frightening the community.

Tar was cheap and plentiful while Dominion Tar and Chemical operated. Baking coal into coke at the ovens produced a steady stream of gas from the top, used for heating, and tar running from the bottom of the ovens. The tar was piped into the DOMTAR tanks on Victoria Road. It was put in the paving of all our municipal streets and sprayed in lighter form on the dirt roads to keep down dust. There is probably more tar in some of our roads than in any section of the tar ponds. Tar coated our roofs and sealed our basements.

As kids we chewed tar icicles that hung off Dan Gillis' horse barn - a terrible, stick-to-your-teeth thing done as a dare and not for pleasure. This gang is still alive and pushing 80. Tar coated many fence and wood objects for preservation. Every home burned tar-laced coal.

We know now that tar has chemicals to be avoided. This is similar to the hundreds of other harmful elements in our environment that we know not to ingest.

I feel that the extreme, costly measures planned for cleaning up of the tar ponds are not necessary. Ratepayers cannot afford the expenditure of $400 million to fix up our municipal infrastructure. Much of the hundreds of millions requested for the tar ponds could better be spent for urgently needed municipal repair. This can be combined with grants from the billions soon available from the federal government and the province to fight the depression (and the next election).

We must have detailed plans for our municipal infrastructure projects prepared and ready to submit for funding. This is a once-in-a-depression opportunity to remedy the worst consequences from the ending of industrial and mining employment and the ensuing population decline.

Vic Dawson