Ministers receive tar ponds cleanup report from panel

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., July 13, 2006

Sydney - Environment ministers now know how the tar ponds should be cleaned up. At the conclusion of 55 days of deliberations, three members of an independent panel submitted their findings and recommendations Wednesday afternoon to federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and provincial Environment Minister Mark Parent.

The two levels of government will review the document before making decisions on remediating the tar ponds and coke ovens sites forwarded by the Sydney Tar Pond Agency in December and at the backbone of panel hearings held in Sydney in May.

However, it's unknown how long anxious residents will wait to get their hands on the document. Some are hoping it will be sometime today.

"I'd be disappointed if it wasn't," said Debbie Ouellette, a former Frederick Street resident who attended nearly every panel hearing. "I really think we should know. We've waited so long for this. I would love to see it."

Alastair MacLeod, chair of the Citizens' Liaison Committee, sent a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour requesting the panel process maintain the same level of openness the community experienced throughout the environmental assessment process.

"We understand that it may take several months for the two levels of government to confirm a final cleanup plan," wrote MacLeod. "We also anticipate that the public will want to know the report's content as soon as it is available and believe that current public support will diminish if the report's release is delayed."

Debbie Hendriksen, spokesperson for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, said it's up to ministers to decide when the report will be made public.

The joint panel review was chaired by Lesley Griffiths, a co-principal of Griffiths Muecke Associates - a community planning and environmental consulting firm located in Halifax. She was joined by William Charles, a former Dean of Dalhousie University Law School, and Louis LaPierre, with the K.C. Irving Chair in Sustainable Development at the Université de Moncton.

In 2004, governments agreed to allocate up to $400 million in funding to remediate the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.