Tar ponds cleanup winding down

Cape Breton Post
Apr. 10, 2012
Greg McNeil

SYDNEY - Capping of the north pond as part of the final phase in the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup has begun.

The cleanup portion of the $400-million remediation project of the former steel plant site started nearly eight years ago.

"The first phase was more of a learning phase and getting used to the site and technology," said Tanya Collier MacDonald, spokeswoman for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. "The second phase worked really well and we expect the third phase to be just as great."

The capping of the north pond - the largest aspect of the third phase of the cleanup - has been contracted to Nordly's, the same company that did the solidification and stabilization work at the south pond.

Collier MacDonald said most of the work now underway will be where the north pond narrows to Sydney harbour, and is expected to be completed before the end of this year. "There will be activity on both sides, but most of the work will be on the tar ponds side of it with the solidification and the capping."

The third and final phase of the cleanup will also include construction of the Ferry Street bridge, which could open as early as this summer, and the future-use component of the project that will go to tender in June or July. "Future-use component for us is the most exciting and there's lots of reasons for that," said Collier MacDonald. "One is that we are nearly completed. It will probably provide some of the greatest benefits to the community."

Up to $20 million has been set aside for future use, she said, which could lead to greater development and an area for active lifestyle downtown.

As for the coke ovens site, contractors were on site for orientation this week. Work there is also expected to be concluded this winter. "On the coke ovens site, we are doing more of a cover as opposed to a cap," said Collier MacDonald. "The first part of it was the aboriginal set-aside, which is pretty much completed. This one is not an aboriginal set-aside. It's a general contract but they'll do the same thing, which is clean up debris and place the cover on, which is mostly soil."

During peak of construction of the latest portion of the project there will be 120 people on the site at any one time. As construction has again ramped up, so has monitoring of the site.

The agency's ambient air monitoring program has returned to a six-day National Air Pollution Surveillance schedule. Since December 2011, samples were collected on a 12-day national schedule. The real-time odour monitoring program has restarted, as well.

Monitoring odour and air quality are components of efforts to inform the public of air quality around the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.