Community leaders reiterate need for comprehensive study of cleanup

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Apr. 26, 2005

SYDNEY - A group of 11 community representatives attended a news conference Monday to reiterate the need for a comprehensive study on the tar ponds cleanup.

"This is an extraordinary gathering," said Coun. Vince Hall, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, who billed the announcement as "urgent." "Not since Black Friday, 38 years ago, have so many diverse organizations and leaders gathered in common cause. Represented here are groups and individuals from labour, municipal government, health, business, youth, the environment and high education."

During the session, held at the Civic Centre, in Sydney, Hall repeated that the municipality recommends a government-led study.

The municipality's view is backed by the Cape Breton District Health Authority's chief executive officer, John Malcom. "The organizations and individuals here are the bedrock of our community," said Hall. He said that representatives in attendance support a comprehensive study.

A full panel review will take "much longer and encourage yet more destructive debate," said Hall. "It will also put the cleanup itself at risk. If a panel were to recommend a cleanup process costing much more than $400 million, it may derail the project altogether."

Hall said the problems with a full panel are that it will be difficult to find "so-called independent experts" to sit on the panel and making them familiar with the project is another challenge. He also believes the federal government wouldn't be able to enforce stringent timelines for the panel to follow. "Today will tell us if Ottawa is listening to the leaders of this community," said Hall.

Malcom also said the full panel approach will cause unnecessary and lengthy delays. He said a comprehensive study allows ample opportunity for community involvement and will lead to a safe and effective cleanup in a reasonable amount of time. "I've learned it pays to listen," said Malcom. "I hope people are hearing what this community is saying."

Bruno Marcocchio, a spokesperson for the Sierra Club of Canada, attended the news conference as an "uninvited guest." He said that government has already wasted $60 million on previous cleanup attempts and the Joint Action Group's proposals were ignored.