Convincing communities to deal with tar ponds sludge may be difficult: official

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, June 13, 2003

Convincing another community to burn contaminated waste from the tar ponds and coke ovens sites may prove to be difficult. "It's a pretty big problem," said Gary Campbell, executive director of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.

And it's not a surprise for the team tasked with co-ordinating all provincial activity in the cleanup of Canada's worst toxic waste site.

Sludge from a Domtar tank located on the coke ovens site was transported to an Ontario landfill-a move vehemently opposed by residents in that province.
"If there are concerns over a small Domtar tank, those same concerns apply to the tar ponds themselves and other areas of the site including the tar cell," said Campbell.

Since that time, workbook surveys on cleanup options for the contaminated sites were conducted in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, with close to 1,800 residents participating. From that exercise, a recommendation of co-burning the waste was listed as the most favourable option.

The closest facility capable of burning most of the contamination is the Point Aconi Power Plant.

During a community meeting Wednesday, residents living near the power plant strongly stated they are unwilling to have the waste incinerated in their community.

More than 100 citizens attended the session and comments noted were "why bring it to Point Aconi when you have your own fluidized bed incinerator in Sydney." And, "I don't want poisons burned in my community."

Campbell was asked if there's no way to take it off the site because all the other communities are saying they don't want it in their backyards, what are the options?
"The options are that you deal with it on site."

One of the alternatives is using the twin-fluidized bed incinerator initially created in the early 90s to burn the tar pond sludge but failed to properly transport the waste, said Campbell. That effort cost taxpayers $55 million.
"In reality, that is a co-burning option." But that has also been opposed by concerned citizens such as Sydney resident Marlene Kane. She has said the facility can't be used because it doesn't meet the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines.
Kane has said the guidelines state "a hazardous waste incinerator shall not be located within 1,500 metres of schools, residences . . ." Harbourview Elementary School in Whitney Pier, which houses 800 children, is located about 600 metres from the site. As well, more than 2,000 civic addresses, along with recreational areas, grocery stores, restaurants and businesses lie within the 1,500 metre zone.

Campbell said the incinerator can be moved but it may not be feasible. since it's hooked up to a big boiler used to make steam and to generate eight to 10 megawatts of power. He added the big issue would be to "make sure there is nothing that would come off the site that would impact on any other person no matter where they are. You would never use a facility that would endanger anybody's health."