Tour bus makes stop at tar ponds

Free tours of contaminated site will continue throughout summer

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
Thur., Jul. 5, 2007

Whitney Pier - Taking in a panoramic view of the Sydney tar ponds and cove ovens sites during a two-hour bus tour Wednesday morning, Stephen Tobin and other members of JCI Cape Breton quickly turned their thoughts to the promising future the area may hold following the completion of the seven-year cleanup.

Tobin, executive director of JCI Cape Breton, toured the sites with five of his fellow young professionals, along with Sydney Tar Ponds Agency officials and local media. When the time is right, he said groups like his, the Cape Breton Partnership and Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce could forge a united front to put forth suggestions on what type of developments there should be on those sites, which would improve the region’s economic woes.

"We want to play a key role in the development of the tar ponds site and give some real input," said Tobin, during a stop on the tour at Frederick Street in Whitney Pier.

Sidney Reid, another JCI member, described a highlight of Wednesday’s tour as being "on top of the landfill six feet away from all the garbage." She believes the cove ovens and tar ponds could transform itself into a large green space and include businesses that delve into information technology, engineering and environmental work.

It would be a chance to attract young people back to Cape Breton, she said. "People who are studying now, people who are maybe living elsewhere are looking for opportunities to come home," Reid added. "There will be an opportunity here for you to return home and explore some of those options."

The free tours of one of Canada’s most contaminated sites will continue throughout the summer. Schoolchildren were among the first to take part in the bus tours when they began in May. On these tours, Sydney Tar Ponds Agency summer students Kelley McVarish and Geraldine MacMillan will give residents background and history of the sites, as well as the cleanup process currently underway.

So far, there have been 10 tours attracting individuals, groups and organizations who are curious about what’s happening in the area, said agency spokesperson Tanya Collier MacDonald. "The purpose is to reach people who may have some misconceptions about what’s happening here and may have some concerns that we are able to alleviate," she said. "We’re just trying to generate more interest in the tour. There is no cost, anyone is welcome."

Collier MacDonald said work at the tar ponds site is continuing with pilot scale testing that’s needed for the cooling pond before remediation work there can go to tender.

For a guided tour of the sites contact the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.