Former chair of JAG takes environmentalist to task

By Glenn Hanam
Cape Breton Post - Weekend Feedback
Saturday, March 6, 2004

As usual, this article is a medley of old and discredited claims, new but equally discreditable claims, with a smattering of breathtakingly ridiculous confabulations.

One error, which needs to be corrected, is the reference to the Sierra Club. It should properly refer to the Sierra Club of Canada. The Sierra Club is the venerable and well-respected American organization, which has done much to bring environmental issues to the fore in the United States. The Sierra Club of Canada is not affiliated with the Sierra Club in any way. It simply pays a fee to the Sierra Club for the use of the name in Canada.

As an example of old discredited claims, consider the claim that the Eco-logic process has zero emissions. This has been debunked on many occasions. I do not feel I have to do it again. If the reader is interested in finding out for himself, I refer him to the article by Francis Sirois that appeared in the Cape Breton Post. For new and easily discredited claims, consider the claim that JAG failed its mandate because it did not carry out widespread sampling in the community. For starters, it was not the function of JAG to do sampling. Sampling was carried out by the government partners.

In addition, the mandate of JAG was clearly laid out-in the memorandum of understanding as applying to the site and any contaminants currently entering and leaving the site. In spite of sampling not being part of its mandate, JAG did request the government partners to do testing in the wider community.

If it was not done it was not for lack of trying on the part of JAG. This cannot be considered as a failure of JAG to fulfill its mandate, since it was never in the JAG mandate in the first place.

If Bruno and his friends at the Sierra Club of Canada thought that widespread sampling in Sydney was so important, why didn't they do it themselves? What's hold them back? They had six years, the six years that JAG spent getting $60 million dollars worth of work done on the site. Surely a sampling program costing no more than $30,000 would have been easy for any organization with even a shred of competence.

For breathtakingly ridiculous confabulations, we have the 30,000 tonne hotspot supposedly overlooked by JAG. Thirty thousand tonnes of contaminated sediment occupy a volume of a million cubic feet, equivalent to about 1000 times the volume of the average livimg room.

This is not easily overlooked. The Phase II/III site assessment carried out at the request of JAG drilled holes in the tar ponds on a 50-foot grid. To be overlooked, the hot spot would have to be less than 50 feet wide. A 30,000 tonne deposit less that 50' wide on top would have to be at least 266 feet deep. The idea that such a volume of material could have been overlooked is ridiculous. When Mr.Marcocchio makes this kind of fabulous claim, it leads me to suspect that he is becoming delusional.

The Sierra Club may regret its decision to allow the use of its name when it finds out what the Sierra Club of Canada has been up to here. There is a large gap between the words and the actions of the Sierra Club of Canada. With words they continue to call for a cleanup.

By their actions they oppose and obstruct the cleanup at every opportunity. They withdrew their membership from JAG. They repeatedly tried to discredit JAG. They carried out personal attacks on the credibility and character of JAG volunteers.

They disrupted public meetings. They harassed government employees. They physically threatened JAG staff. It seemed as if no behavior was too rude, no insult too slanderous for them to use to throw at the members of JAG. I was there and I watched it all and I kept my peace.

The people's recommendation on the cleanup is now a matter of record, but the viscous attacks on JAG and its accomplishments by the Sierra Club of Canada continue.

This leaves some questions unanswered. Unlike JAG, the Sierra Club of Canada is a secretive organization. Their mission statement has not been made public.

Their membership list is secret, and their future plans are unknown. I have my own theory about why the Sierra Club of Canada is so bitter. Based on its actions, I believe they are primarily motivated by envy and greed. Envy that unpaid volunteers could succeed where the paid professionals had failed, and greed to get the piddling stipend which was paid to JAG to operate the secretariat diverted to the coffers of the Sierra Club of Canada.

In fact, it is the Sierra Club of Canada who has failed here. They failed to destroy JAG. They failed to discredit JAG. They failed to prevent the people of Sydney from getting behind JAG to produce their historic recommendation. They failed in their attempt to frighten the volunteers from the table.

They failed on all fronts. I believe that their attempt to claim the credit for the work done by JAG will also fail. Claiming that it was JAG that failed is untrue, and no amount of repetition will change untruth to truth.

There is one success story m the Sierra Club of Canada that bears mentioning. Bruno Marcocchio has succeeded in getting a salary out of the deal. He has managed to get himself paid for making the name of Sydney synonymous with toxic waste across Canada, thereby undermining and destroying the community that shelters him. Congratulations are due to Bruno on his hard earned success.

Glenn Hanam was chair of the Remedial Options Working Group,
part of the Joint Action Group on the Muggah Creek Cleanup.