Jag Working Group Selects Options Three And Four For Tar Ponds, Coke Ovens

( Click here to read the actual motion to be presented )

Front page article
Philip Croucher
Cape Breton Post
Monday, May 12, 2003

A working group with the Joint Action Group has agreed to a motion on how best to clean up one of Canada's worst toxic sites.

The Remedial Options Working Group decided in its motion on cleanup options three and four for both the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites at the Muggah Creek Watershed following a second day of deliberations Saturday afternoon at Saint George's Parish Hall in Sydney.

The group of roughly 20 members came to its decision based on the results they received from surveys conducted by area residents in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. In the workbooks sent out by JAG last February, residents selected the options they felt were acceptable and unacceptable in regards to the cleanup process.

Their were six options available for the Tar Ponds and four for the Coke Ovens site. In total, 1,754 people filled out the surveys.

"Our mandate was to empower the people of Sydney, not to empower JAG" said remedial options chair Glen Hanam. That is what we set out to do when we made our strategic plan and that's what we've been doing more or less ever since.

"The people who made those decisions had gone through the two-hour (information) sessions, finding out all about the options and what the drawbacks were. Then, they told us what they wanted."

For the Tar Ponds, option three calls for cleanup by soil washing, bioremediation, coburning and containment. In this option, cleanup would include excavating sediment from both ponds and treatment with soil washing and possible bioremediation. It would also entail fuel material recovered going to an off-site power plant or cement kiln for co-burning. PCBs would be treated on site with pyrolysis or thermal desorption, then destroyed through off-site incineration, plasma, or Hydrogen Reduction. Option four calls for just co-burning.

Option three was the most popular cleanup method selected by area residents (60 per cent) Option four had the approval of 55 per cent. The cost for option three is estimated at $333 million and would take about seven years to complete. Option four would cost $220 million, plus transport, and would take 11 years to complete.

For the Coke Ovens, option three calls for cleanup by soil washing and co-burning. Option four is for cleanup by pyrolysis and co-burning. In each option, crews would excavate the top-two meters of soil from contaminated areas and replace it with clean fill.

Again, option three was the favourite of CBRM residents (73 per cent), followed closely by option four (69 per cent). The cost of option three is $120 million over seven years. Option four would also take seven years to complete and cost $100 million.

"I'm very happy (with the motion) said JAG chair Dan Fraser. The community had a strong preference for getting getting rid of materials, so destruction is certainly something they want. They're not in any favour of capping or containment, and the other thing they want is that it be a permanent solution."

Support was nearly unanimous, with only one member objecting to the motion. Marlene Kane said she didn't necessarily disagree with the decision, but felt more time was needed to think about the wording and its implications.

"I just felt I wanted more time to review the final product that the rest of the group was putting forward," she said.

When the motion did pass, a round of applause broke out at the meeting, which came as a surprise to Hanam.

I guess it's more gratifying looking back on it than it was at the time he said. "It just caught me by surprise. Spontaneous applause at the table hadn't happened before at remedial options group."

The group's motion will now be presented to the JAG steering committee Wednesday, then to the JAG roundtable, May 28. JAG will then forward its final recommendations to government.

Tender calls for the cleanup are expected to be ready by fall 2004 and work is scheduled to begin in 2005.