May gives Tar Ponds report a B-plus

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Mon., July 24, 2006

Sydney - An environmental critic is giving top marks to strict conditions listed in a comprehensive report authored by three independent members of a joint review panel.

"I give the text a B-plus," said Elizabeth May, former Sierra Club director and now candidate for the national Green Party leadership. "When you actually read it, it's a damning indictment of the project as proposed. They have essentially created a new process to guide this going forward."

May attended panel hearings assessing a cleanup project for the tar ponds and coke ovens forwarded by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. At the conclusion, May suggested another round of hearings may be needed to completely flesh out project options and threatened to challenge the project in court if PCBs were buried at the site.

Her position has changed after reviewing the 167-page document handed to governments. "All these recommendations point to a real skepticism on the part of the panel that the project as proposed could go ahead safely or that the regulators as currently constituted could even manage it," said May "These are very damning factual statements that, on the evidence, this project does not have enough information to get a final sign-off at all."

Although the project assessment reached the next stage in the environmental assessment, the panel has put a leash on implementation. "The question to me is, how strong is this leash?" said May

One of the most significant panel recommendations, she continued, is that no government funding be allocated to the project until technologies are proven to be effective and performance is satisfactory

"You would be tying up the funding until you actually thought this could work," said May. "I think this is it. I don't think they can do solidification and stabilization unless it performs far better in its next round of testing. I don't know how it's going to produce the results now laid down.

"In a lot of ways, the panel review has nixed incineration and nixed solidification and stabilization while at the same time saying (the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency) can proceed to the next stage. But that next phase will be the death knell for this particular approach."

One missing component is a recommendation for nearby residential communities.

In a Sierra Club press release, former Frederick Street resident Debbie Ouellette, said she is disappointed by the panel report.