Cement-based plan to solidify tar ponds won’t work

Cape Breton Post
Letter to the Editor by Geoffrey May
Fri., July 3, 2009

In the June 27 story, Cape Breton Company Part of $52M Tar Ponds Contract, reporter Nancy King wrote: "Cement will be mixed into contaminated material, immobilizing hazardous contaminants. Cement reacts with water in the material to change physical and chemical properties and prevent contaminants from escaping into the environment."

The statements are not accurate. It is very unlikely that cement will immobilize the contaminants and prevent them from escaping into the environment in the case of the tar ponds, owing to the high ratio of coal and coal byproducts in the contaminated soil.

The tar ponds are more than 50 per cent coal and coal byproducts, and even the Portland Cement Association recognizes that cement won’t work in non-hazardous oily wastes composed of 25 per cent coal and coal byproducts.

This is consistent with the expert testimony at the Joint Panel Review on the cleanup by both Dr. G. Fred Lee and Dr. Les Ignasiak. Their testimony can be read at www.safecleanup.com (click on Sierra Club Resource Page -Tar Ponds Panel Review, and read transcripts for May 15).

Furthermore, the very action of mixing the cement with the contaminated soil will release toxic PAHs into the Sydney environment. This activity is scheduled for five years, according to your story.

So rather than a cleanup, the $52 million will spread the toxins and leave a totally unsatisfactory result.

Readers may also wish to read the transcripts for May 16 where TD Enviro laid out its plans for a cheaper, safer, actual cleanup of the sites which would have also produced more local jobs.

Geoffrey May
Margaree Harbour