Smelly tar ponds upsetting residents

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post - Front Page
Fri., June 25, 2004

An unbearable stench rising from the tar ponds has people gasping for fresh air as they make their way past the toxic site.

"I breathe through my mouth so I can't smell it," said Chris MacNeil, as he walked along Prince Street near the Sydney Shopping Centre, Thursday. "On really hot days it smells like rotting food." MacNeil said he's ashamed and embarrassed when he sees cruise ship visitors walking through the area. "I wouldn't want people going home thinking this is what Cape Breton is all about."

Crystal Brown moved to the Ashby area a little more than a year ago. She was surprised that the smell travelled as far as her home.

"Sometimes you open the windows to air the house out but the smell coming in is worse," said Brown. "It smells likerotteneggs.It'sgross."

Will Delaney, a homeowner living just a few blocks from the tar ponds, has a 'for sale' sign on his lawn. "I've only had one viewing in the past eight weeks," he said. He's lived in the home for several years and has lived on the street since he was a young boy. "There are nights when there is no breeze and it's warm, you'll sometimes get the smell of the sewer and you have to go in the house and close your windows," added Delaney.

However, he said the lack of interest in his home is not simply because of the smell: it's the concern some people have of living next to Canada's worst toxic waste site. "It's the tar ponds issue as a whole," he said.

Donna O'Connell, manager at Terry's Consignment Shop on Prince Street, said customers complain about the smell but it doesn't deter them from shopping there. "It burns the nostrils," she said. "When the doors open you can smell it."

Frank Potter, director of operations at the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said residents and tourists will have to endure the smell until at least next summer.

At that time, it's planned that a sewage treatment plant will be constructed at the tip of Battery Point and will be handling sewage currently being dumped into the ponds. Potter said the agency is reviewing ways to flush the ponds once the sewage is redirected to the treatment plant. Although Coke Ovens Brook will continue to supply clean water to the site, there will be sediment left behind, he said.

In the meantime, a heavy rainfall will alleviate some of the smell, said Potter.