CBRM official will call for government study of toxic cleanup plan

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Wed. Mar. 9, 2005

Sydney - A senior municipal official will try to convince councillors to support a government-led study of cleanup plans for Sydney’s toxic sites instead of backing an independent review.

In an issue paper, to be discussed today at a special council meeting at the Civic Centre, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s director of engineering and public works, Kevin MacDonald, will recommend a comprehensive study instead of a full panel review. In the document, MacDonald writes that government experts already familiar with the tar ponds and coke ovens project should be part of the environmental assessment. "The site-specific knowledge gained by these experts regarding the science and technologies and related health and socio-economic issues, I believe, need to be a direct part of the process."

MacDonald said extensive public engagement has already taken place through the Joint Action Group at a level never before attempted or delivered on a national scale. However, if Environment Minister Stephane Dion does decide to track the process through a full panel review, the minister should order definitive timelines for completing the process, said MacDonald.

He also listed a number of concerns he had with the proposed incinerator planned to burn PCB sludge from the tar ponds and coke ovens. He said that in 2006, federal guidelines for emission standards for dioxins and furans will become the lowest in the world. "The new standards should be the regulation in this operating permit," said MacDonald.

He also asked for details on monitoring procedures during the incinerator’s operation. "Continuous monitoring on furans and dioxins is not feasible, however, other emissions are more readily able to be monitored on a continuous basis and accurate correlation based on the test monitoring for dioxins and furans can be established," said MacDonald. He also noted that the proposed site for the incinerator, the Victoria Junction wash plant on the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway, does approach the New Waterford water supply watershed, the Grand Lake watershed and other water courses. "What criteria is being employed to monitor, protect and ensure that these watersheds are not impacted," asked MacDonald.

The municipality’s water utility and engineering staff need to be consulted directly, he added. The municipality should also be consulted on how Sydney’s Wash Brook will be controlled when a cofferdam is constructed at the tar ponds. The brook has a history of overflowing during heavy rainfalls.

MacDonald also questioned who would take responsibility if a human error was made in relation to engineering design, construction, or the implementation of the cleanup plans resulting in damage to property or some other harmful effect. "In the unlikely instance that this may happen, will the (Sydney Tar Ponds Agency) take full responsibility for the same," asked MacDonald.

Today is the final day for community feedback on the proposed cleanup plans and a scoping document for the tar ponds and coke ovens site. At that point, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Environment Canada and Transport Canada will review the comments. Within 30 to 60 days, their recommendation will be forwarded to Dion for his consideration. Experts will then review the departments’ recommendation before Dion decides to continue with a comprehensive review or switch to a full panel review.