Wasted Space

Engineering firm studying what can be done with Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Fri., Feb. 9, 2007

SYDNEY - Ways to utilize the city's waste sites once they're capped is part of a $200,000 study analysing future uses of the properties and what role they'll play in other plans.

The engineering firm CBCL is conducting the study on behalf of five stakeholders, which includes the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The goal is to forward recommendations by early summer.

"In its simplest form, it's about how do we improve the transportation network," said John Whalley, the municipality's economic development manager. "In a more complicated form, it's about trying to figure out if we can achieve a phased business park connecting the waterfront to the airport and university."

The vision for the corridor starts at Harbourside Business Park built on the former Sysco site, flows to an area for light industrial use and ends with a technology park near Cape Breton University and Sydney airport. The study will determine if there is merit in developing infrastructure needed to support such an initiative. If there is merit, the next step would be to identify the role a remediated Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites will play, said Whalley.

"This is why it was so important for us to understand what could be done on the remediated properties," said Whalley. "Do we have to avoid the remediated properties, or can they be used? If they can be used, to what standard can they be used? Can you put buildings on them? Could you put a road near the properties or through the properties?"

The answers to those questions won't be available until further testing is conducted on the solidification and stabilization technology picked to manage the contaminated waste. "We're hoping CBCL will provide those answers," said Whalley.

CBCL, in partnership with Earth Tech, is also working on a detailed engineering design for the cleanup. As well, it's working with Xstrata Coal to determine the feasibility of opening Donkin mine.

"(CBCL) has to understand what (Sydney harbour) can do and understand the remediation work, not only on the tar ponds and coke ovens sites, but also the Devco sites located within the corridor," he said.

Once CBCL collects data, a steering committee heading the future site use plan will start envisioning workshops and other exercises to help formulate recommendations. Then a feasibility study will be done on the proposed business corridor.

Whalley said the study is in advance of any funding commitments from government. The municipality is hoping a portion of the $400 million the province and Ottawa allocated for the project will be directed to future site use. "It's not quite clear how much money, if any, is dedicated to future site use," he said.

A recommendation from a joint review panel assessing the remediation project called for government to fund a plan but not to finance that plan.

Whalley said once a feasibility study is complete, the committee will work to determine where the money will come from. "A big part of that will have to come from the municipal capital budget, but hopefully the provincial and federal governments will also be willing to contribute."

He's also hoping the Atlantic Gateway Strategy, which is focused on the Port of Halifax and the Strait of Canso Superport, will make room for the Port of Sydney.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Nova Scotia Lands Corp., Public Works and Government Services of Canada, Cape Breton Development Corp. and the municipality shared the study's cost.