Study to determine best way to remove sludge

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requires information

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Friday, Mar. 19, 2004

The best way to remove and handle the tar ponds sludge will be the focus of an engineering study to be completed in June.

A tender was issued requesting proposals to review, evaluate and recommend one of several potential materials removal and handling options for sediments in the ponds.

The work is different from a remedial action evaluation report previously completed by the Joint Action Group because it's more in depth, explained Gary Campbell, executive director of the province's Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.

"The RAER document only talked about mechanical dredging as being the way to go," said Campbell. It didn't go into great detail. It was very general.

An incinerator, now mothballed at the edge of the tar ponds, cost taxpayers $55 million and failed to clean up the sludge. Government isn't interested in having history repeat itself, said Campbell. "The biggest problem we ran into was actually dealing with the material - getting it out of the pond and transporting it," said Campbell.

The scope of work outlined in the tender reads that the project will include the review of all available options for full-scale commercially applied and proven materials-handling technologies. As well, all aspects of sediment removal, transport, pretreatment, handling and storage are to be considered.

The goal of the study is to develop and assess a minimum of three scenarios and the effect each would have on the local and surrounding environment.

The technology selected as the favourable option will effectively control all volatile air emissions; effectively and efficiently excavate, pretreat, dewater and handle the sludge; identity and minimize any on-site or off-site impacts to the environment during or subsequent to the activity. As well, the recommended option should be consistent with those options presented in the RAER and should be cost-effective. "This was the Achilles heel the last time," said Campbell. "Let's be ready this time."

Once the project is defined, government won't be forced to start from scratch, he said. "One of the questions I would like answered is the existing dredge," said Campbell. "Can we take the cutter head off it and attach a backhoe?"

Campbell would not comment on how much the review may cost but it is being paid for under the existing cost-share agreement among the federal, provincial and municipal governments.