MP wants public involved in cleanup

Cape Breton Post (B4)
By Philip Croucher
Monday, June 9, 2003

The plug may have been pulled on the Joint Action Group, but the MP for Sydney Victoria says it shouldn't spell the end of the public's involvement in the cleanup of one of Canada's worst toxic sites.

Mark Eyking said he accepts the decision last week by the provincial and federal governments to not renew their commitment to JAG.

But with the process now entering the clean-up phase, he said the public deserves to still have some sort of input into the process.
"(JAG) fulfilled their man date, and did a great job, and that's ended," said Eyking, who has spent the past two and a half years bringing the need to clean up the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site to the forefront.
"But it's not like it's all over. The only thing that is closed is one chapter and we're looking at another one. "We're going through phases here," he added.
"We're going through a lot of community involvement, to an environmental study into kind of a roll your sleeves up and get the job done.
"But as you're moving through those phases, there's probably different ways the public should be involved."

The clean-up process certainly hits home for Eyking. Co-burning toxic waste from the sites has been deemed the remediation of choice of residents who participated in a JAG workbook process.

That means incinerating contaminated waste at a capable power plant or cement kiln. The closest power plant is the Point Aconi power plant owned by Nova Scotia Power. The closest cement kiln is on the mainland.

Eyking Farms the local MP's family-owned business in Millville is located near the power plant. "We're looking at different models on the new way public is going to be involved," said Eyking, who along with Bras d'Or MP Rodger Cuzner, met last week in Ottawa with Environment Minister David Anderson and Minister of Public Works and Government Services Ralph Goodale regarding the tar ponds issue.
"We're looking at different things in Ottawa and we're going to propose them to the province and the municipalities and say:
"Look, even though the province is taking the lead on the whole cleanup, we feel strongly we need a public input here."
"So I think in the next few weeks we're going to have some sort of an agreement with the province on what we're going to have in place."

In a letter signed Friday by both the CEO of the provincial Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, David Darrow, and the Atlantic regional director general of Environment Canada, Garth Bangay, it was confirmed funding will no longer be made to the group for operations past September.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the three levels of government and JAG members in 1997. That five-year agreement was up for renewal in September unless one of the parties sent notice of termination by June 19.

In the letter it was expressed that since a recommendation on clean-up options has been forwarded to government to turn into a project, JAG's main reason for existing has been met. "I just think we have to have the public involved and we have to take out the good stuff out of the JAG process and have a new forum," Eyking said.
"I think we'll come out with something good."