Work at cooling pond winding down; dealing with dust

By Our Staff

Cape Breton Post
Sat., Apr. 5, 2008

Sydney - As work on the project is nearing an end, construction work resumed at the cooling pond Friday, after it was shut down Thursday evening when dust limits outlined in the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency’s environmental management plan were approached.

Work was also halted last Friday, when dust levels were exceeded for the first time on the project. It resumed the following day.

The Sydney cooling pond is a manmade, circular body of water and sludge, located on Inglis Street. The function of the pond was to cool water once used by Sysco’s rolling mills.

The agency’s real-time air monitoring program is intended to protect the health of the general public and onsite workers from being affected by cleanup activities.

Real-time data monitored continuously

"Each day they have almost like a dust budget," agency spokesperson Tanya Collier MacDonald noted. "Last Friday there was an exceedance of that budget and (Thursday) night they came close, but they didn’t actually exceed, they were shut down as a precautionary measure until the air monitoring people had time to crunch the numbers."

The real-time data, collected as 15-minute averages, are monitored continuously during construction activity to identify sources of volatile organic compounds and dust. This approach allows site managers to modify activities immediately and to implement controls that lower dust levels before they become a hazard.

Work on the cooling pond project is expected to be completed within the next two weeks. "They’re almost at the very end of the solidification and stabilization part of the project, so all the sediment that was in there is almost completely solidified and stabilized and they’re almost finished capping as well," Collier MacDonald said. "To look at it, pretty well most of the cooling pond just disappeared."

The cooling pond project was the first aboriginal set-aside component of the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites, with three local aboriginal construction companies working on the project. They are currently working on the last cell of the project.

Aboriginal construction companies are already looking toward future contracts as part of the cleanup process. "This experience has also allowed these Cape Breton aboriginal construction companies to build capacity and expertise and has positioned them to play a significant role in future contracts and other major construction projects in Nova Scotia", said Dan Christmas, chair of the Unama’ki economic benefits steering committee and senior adviser to Membertou First Nation.

Frank Potter, president of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, called the cooling pond project a success, largely due to the aboriginal contractors working on the project. "They have responded to the challenge of a demanding environmental project and in the process have acquired valuable skills and training from some of the top experts in the field of solidification and stabilization," he said.