Opinions on assessment process sought

Cape Breton Post
Tues., Feb. 15, 2005
Chris Shannon

SYDNEY - The first of four open houses seeking public input into the environmental assessment process in cleaning up the tar ponds and coke ovens site began Monday.

Itís the first chance for the general public to ask questions directly to the government officials involved in the $400-million cleanup about the proposed action plan.

Last week the federal government announced the Victoria Junction Wash Plant is its preferred location to set up a temporary incinerator that would burn up to 150,000 tonnes of contaminated sludge over three years.

Some people are concerned that may spread toxins across residential areas in the vicinity.

Grand Lake Road resident Lenora Brewster lives within kilometres of the wash plant. Sheís concerned that burning toxic chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals will affect her health. "I know what goes up there, is going to come down through those (incinerator) stacks," said Brewster, who was among the first few to attend the open house session at the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus. "Basically where they are planning to put that portable incinerator is right in my backyard."

The federal Public Works and Environment departments favour a government-controlled comprehensive study, although some community members and the environmental watchdog group, the Sierra Club of Canada, prefer a full panel review, which would be independent from government.

But whatever the choice for environmental assessment, Brewster said incineration seems inevitable. "Itís a done deal. Itís probably on its way. No matter what we say or how much we object, itís still going to come here because they want to get it done, they want to get it out of the way." Hubert Jacquin, a spokesperson for Public Works and Government Services Canada, said nothing is a done deal just yet. "Every ounce of input we are getting from this process will be factored in the end for a final decision to either keep this project on a comprehensive study track or to have a decision that will move the project to a review by panel," he said at the open house, Monday.

Surveys at the open house asked people for comment about the scope of the project, factors to be considered in an environmental assessment, and whether a comprehensive study process adequately answers their questions relating to the cleanup. Government officials have set aside 30 days, up until March 9, for public comment on the plans. After that, recommendations for the shape of an environmental assessment process will begin.

Environment Minister Stephane Dion will have the final say as to which direction the process will turn.

The open houses continue today at St. Michaelís Society Hall, Victoria Road; at the Ashby Legion Hall, State Street, Wednesday; and at St. Georgeís Hall, Nepean Street, Thursday.