Grand Lake Road residents don't want incineration

Citizens group finds flaws with agency's plans for site

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., May 9, 2006

Sydney - Grand Lake Road residents sounded more like the engineers they are fighting against when they took their crack at convincing joint review panel members that incineration plans should be rejected.

Ron Marman, a spokesperson for the group, said Monday that residents found several flaws with Victoria Junction Wash Plant being selected as a favoured option for the site of a mobile incinerator. It's proposed that the facility will burn about 120,000 tonnes of PCB sediment from the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

First, he said, the wash plant is in the middle of six freshwater lakes.

"Do we not recognize the value of freshwater resources?" asked Marman.

There is the possibility that these lakes connect through underground springs, a consideration not in the Sydney Tar Pond Agency's Environmental Impact Statement. Other omissions include traffic levels along Grand Lake Road and the existence of public buildings like churches and malls.

"The social impact of setting up an incinerator anywhere within the (Cape Breton Regional Municipality) cannot be underestimated," said Marman. "An incinerator can only hurt tourism, enrolment at Cape Breton University as well as the assumption of a pristine environment at the Lingan Golf and Country Club. It does not make sense to contaminate one site to clean another."

Henry Lelandais, another Grand Lake Road resident, said residents don't have enough information on any specific mobile incinerators that could operate in their area.

"While the incineration system described in the (agency's Environmental Impact Statement) should be able to capture most of the contaminants likely to exist in the exhaust gasses, there is not sufficient detail to convince us that this is the safest and most efficient approach to destroy the organic contaminants in the tar pond sludge, or to assess the veracity of the claims made," he said.

Claims that the incinerator will have no adverse impact on the site area or on the health of residents isn't backed by data, continued Lelandais. As well, there's no mention of the effect that years of industrial pollution has already had on residents and the area where they live.

Lelandais, who lives about 1.5 kilometres from the site, said he spent the past year tracking wind directions near his home.

"A look at a map showing the site locations will show graphically how the town of New Waterford will receive most of the fall-out from incineration, as the prevailing winds in the area are from the south-southwest and blowing directly toward the town," he said.

Lastly, Lelandais referred to a Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guideline that recommends a residence not be within 1,500 metres of an incinerator.

"If the CCME guidelines have not been formally revoked, we surely expect that they will be upheld, and therefore, the 1,500-metre resident limit must apply."

Following the presentation, panel members asked for more historical information from the residents, including difficulties homeowners had when the site was operating as a wash plant for Devco.

Marman said residents were made a lot of promises before work began, but those promises were mostly ignored when work got underway.

"The trucking of coal in our community was a total disaster," he said.

A technology vendor was present at Monday's hearing to peddle what it described as a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly and reliable technology then the one currently being assessed. Representatives from Kipin Industries Inc., Pennsylvania, U.S.A., proposed a synthetic fuel process that produces a marketable fuel. Representatives said it would combine plasma technology to reduce costs and risks to environment and community health. It defined plasma technology as a technology that uses electricity to create a high-temperature plasma arc. The material is passed through the arc, which breaks down organics and then recombines them into simple gases like carbon monoxide.

The total cleanup cost of the technology methods the company proposed is $185.4 million US.

Kipin reported that once its work is complete, both the ponds and coke ovens sites will be restored to full community use, increasing property values "significantly."

Kipin said it considered the Sydney Tar Pond Agency's project proposal for the tar ponds to be at significant risk of "catastrophic failure" from climate change. The coke ovens proposal is also doomed because tar will rise to the surface, it said.

With Kipin's plan, wastes will be gone forever, a useful fuel product will be produced and sold to a power plant, yet to be confirmed.

During a question period, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency aimed to create some uncertainty around Kipin's proposal when it asked if the American company was aware that material with PCBs can't cross the country's border. The company said it wasn't aware of the regulation.

The agency also asked if Kipin was aware of the difficulty this community had to get sludge from its Domtar tank destroyed at an incinerator in New Brunswick. Kipin said it knew of the difficulty, and, although it hasn't secured a commitment from any power plants, it is in discussion with several plants that would consider burning the sludge.

The agency said it hired independent engineers to evaluate available technologies and it's "quite confident" in the project now being assessed by panel members.

Just say 'no'

Grand Lake Road residents refuse to accept incineration as part of cleanup options now under assessment by a Joint Review Panel holding hearings in Sydney. They would prefer another cleanup method. In a Remedial Action Evaluation Report prepared in 2003, four cleanup options were listed for the coke oven sites and six options were listed for cleaning up the tar ponds. All were listed as practical and possible solutions. These are:

    Coke Oven cleanup technologies:

  • Option 1 - on-site containment and on-site treatment (bioremediation)

  • Option 2 - complete removal and off-site containment on the coke ovens site

  • Option 3 - removal and off-site treatment (soil washing) and destruction (co-burning)

  • Option 4 - removal and off-site treatment (thermal desorption/pyrolysis) and destruction (co-burning).

    Tar Pond cleanup technologies:

  • Option 1 - removal of north pond sediment and containment in a confined disposal facility in the south pond with removal and off-site destruction of PCB material

  • Option 2 - complete removal and land-based containment on the coke oven sites with removal and off-site destruction of PCB material.

  • Option 3 - complete removal, multi-technology treatment/destruction and land-based containment of the coke ovens site with on-site treatment of PCB materials and off-site destruction of concentrated contaminants.

  • Option 4 - complete removal, off-site co-burning destruction of PAH sediment with off-site incineration of PCB material.

  • Option 5 - complete removal, on-site incineration and land-based containment at the Coke Ovens site.

  • Option 6 - On-site containment of the north and south ponds.

Cleanup in a click
Web sites that provide information on the joint panel process and the remediation plan include:

Pictures not available for captions below:
Ron Marman
Henry LeLandais