Environment Department investigating claim tar ponds wastewater was dumped in harbour

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Feb. 17, 2011

SYDNEY - An industrial cleaning company is under investigation by the Department of Environment following a report of wastewater from the Sydney tar ponds being dumped into the harbour in September.

A former employee of AIC Sullivanís Environmental Services is alleging at least 34,000 litres of wastewater transferred to the companyís sewage lagoon in Sydport was quickly absorbed into Sydney harbour.

The wastewater was supposed to be sent to a treatment plant at Atlantic Industrial Services in Debert, located outside Truro.

Tim Sullivan, a former vice-president of the company, said he was only made aware of the situation Sept. 21 by a supervisor after the dumping had occurred. He said he reported the incident to the chief executive officer of Envirosystems, which owns AIC Sullivanís Environmental, Mike Ryan.

Sullivan, who sold his company Sullivanís Environmental Services to Envirosystems in 2002, said he was immediately placed on paid leave.

According to Sullivan, there were several reasons why it was decided to dump the wastewater in the lagoon. "(The supervisor) felt that the water wasnít that bad, and the facility we have in Debert, he had a difficult time getting service from that facility, and the tank farm on Keltic Drive was full," said Sullivan, who called the explanation "quite lame."

After negotiating a severance with Ryan for several weeks, Sullivan said he was abruptly fired on Dec. 1. He is now suing for wrongful dismissal, claiming his former boss is unfairly blaming him for knowing the wastewater was being dumped in the lagoon. The wastewater contains soil residue washed off trucks before they leave the tar ponds worksite. It is supposed to be collected and transported to Debert where the waste is properly treated.

Donnie Burke, project manager of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said there was nothing in the water that would cause harm to the environment. "From our knowledge of the wastewater that comes out of that facility, it doesnít have a major detrimental impact," he said. Burke said the tar ponds agency terminated its relationship with AIC Sullivanís Environmental Services, which was a subcontractor on the remediation site, once it was learned the wastewater had ended up in the lagoon.

Wastewater transported to treatment facilities is now required to undergo a mandatory test to check the toxicity level of influent, Burke added. "Prior to that it was on an audit basis, so now we require it on every load for a chain of custody requirements."

Environment Department spokesperson Karen White said not much can be said about the case because itís currently under investigation. She said the department strictly enforces regulations on industrial cleaning companies. "There would be terms and conditions to ensure there was proper disposal of wastewater, and we would monitor that through periodic audits, reports, and follow up on any complaints people may have."

Calls placed to AIC Sullivanís Environmental Services head office in Dartmouth were not returned Thursday.