Cleanup Proposal In Government Hands
JAG unanimously approves motion to remove, destroy toxic waste from tar ponds, coke ovens

See Herald article on same topic , Final JAG Options Motion , Recommended Options Details

Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, May 29, 2003 (Front Page)

The Joint Action Group is ready and waiting to see the cleanup of Canada's worst toxic waste site begin. During a historical round table session in Sydney, Wednesday, members of the group unanimously approved a motion to remove and destroy contaminated waste from the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

That recommendation falls in the laps of the federal, provincial and municipal governments today for consideration.
"We did it. Now government partners, dig deep," said Dan Fraser, JAG chairperson, during the session. The motion was created from a community consultation process that involved 1,754 Cape Breton Regional Municipality residents. They were asked to respond to a workbook outlining technologies available.

During that process it was learned that co-burning the toxic sludge at a power plant or cement kiln was the community's favourite method of destruction and pre-treating the contaminated waste before it's destroyed was also desireable.
"A lot of work has gone into getting where we are this evening. As you saw tonight, round table had absolutely no difficulty with that motion." Fraser said JAG is expect ing government to turn the recommendation into a project, put the funding in place, have the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency complete its review and call for tenders by 2004.
"Since 1996, government has come to our city monthly to deal with this issue, to deal with the volunteers, the staff and government people as well to find acceptable solutions for this community as far as the cleanup is concerned. We've done that. We've done that in a big way." If governments turn their backs on JAG's recommendation, "they will lose a great deal of credibility "

It was noted that co-burning could take place as close as the Nova Scotia Power Plant in Point Aconi. JAG and government representatives from that rural community recently in a bid to provide information addressing issues raised by residents.

If it's deemed that the Point Aconi power plant isn't an option, "we expect government will look around to see if there is a cement kiln somewhere or some other fluidized bed incinerator with a co-burning unit, such as there is at Point Aconi, to take care of that aspect of cleaning up and destroying contaminated substances," said Fraser.

There was some protest voiced as the meeting neared its conclusion. Marlene Kane, a concerned citizen and non-voting member of JAG roundtable, said she couldn't support the motion being forwarded to government.
"Because it promotes trucking hazardous waste on the highways, taking it to another community and it promotes hazardous waste incineration. "I don't agree with incinerating hazardous waste especially that which contains PCBs and heavy metals. But, no other options have been provided for this community "

Garth Bangay, Atlantic regional director for Environment Canada, described Wednesday's landmark meeting as the "cherry on the sundae. Let's enjoy it." "It's the night we've all been waiting for," added Don Ferguson, senior adviser for Health Canada.

Whether or not the completion of the historical motion also means JAG is history, has yet to be decided. There will be a meeting with JAG members and government partners June 9 to discuss the group's future role.
"If you look at our mission statement, it clearly indicates we should be involved in the implementation phase of the cleanup," said Fraser.

Government tried to incinerate the 700,000 tonnes of contaminated sludge at the Sydney tar ponds in the early 90s - a failed attempt that cost taxpayers about $55 million. A suggestion soon after to cap the sludge was denounced by the community.