Burning toxic waste at Point Aconi raises concerns among residents

Front page article
Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Monday, May 15, 2003

Burning toxic waste at a Point Aconi power plant has some area residents fearing emissions could contaminate their rural nvironment.

"We are concerned," said Stewart Chaulk, president of the Point-Aconi Community Development Committee, in response to the possibility of sludge from Canada's worst toxic waste site being trucked to his community for incineration.

"To come over here and burn it. What's it going to do to our air quality? They're saying it's safe. But is it?" Chaulk said the committee plans to meet in June to discuss the issue.

Keith Robicheau, co-chair of the community liaison committee with Nova Scotia Power, said he will be meeting with members of the Joint Action Group today to discuss the issue.

He said a lot of details about the cleanup options weren't available until recently and that's why little action has tak en place to date. Whether or not people will be for or against it, Robicheau wasn't certain. "I don't know if we can say a blanket no. There will be some that will say no." Once today's discussion with JAG has concluded, Robicheau plans on holding a community meeting for concerned resi dents.

During a recent JAG working group meeting, a motion was prepared for government summarizing what Cape Breton Regional Municipality residents have deemed as acceptable solutions for cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site.

A revised version of that motion passed its steering committee meeting and will now be presented to its roundtable May 28.

As it stands now, the community says co-burning the toxic material is the best way to destroy the waste. It has been reported that JAG is recommending government "give full and thorough consideration to implementing the chain of feasible technologies" embodied in two cleanup options for the tar ponds and two for the coke ovens that involve co-burning the material.

And, the nearest power plant being touted as a possible channel for that method is the Nova Scotia Power Plant in Point Aconi, which uses a circulating fluidized bed combustion technology. It has the capacity to generate l85 megawatts of electricity.

Margaret Murphy, spokes person for NSP, said the privately-owned company is "listening and learning" as the JAG process unfolds. But no agreement has been reached.

Walter van Veen, project management consultant for the cleanup, said co-burning could involve taking the sediment as is and drying it out until it's a hard, dry pellet. "Almost like coal, or like marble."

There is no rail link to the power plant so trucking the material is a possibility, he said. Once the pellets have arrived, the material would typically be blended with another fuel source at a rate of five to 20 percent. The Power Plant now uses petroleum coke and imported coal. "When you opeate a power plant and you're used to operating in a certain way you generally don't like to dramatically change your feed."

Van Veen said the power plant does have air pollution control equipment in place. "They would Just have to determine if any changes are needed. I can't see why they would, given that our materials are generally quite similar to the naterial that is their normal feed. I don't think you would even detect a change in the stack chemistry."

The fact that there are PCBs in the material does need to be addressed, said van Veen.
"There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out"