Missing tar ponds data now available, according to agency president

By Erin Pottie
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Aug. 7, 2008

Sydney - The Bench Scale Treatability report, which was expected to be released in January, will detail mix recipes used to treat sediment from the north and south tar ponds in lab testing. The report has been delayed in its release so it could be combined with the project’s Pilot Scale Work Plan, said Potter.

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment agreed to combine the two documents, after a regulatory review of the project, he said.

Both reports are now expected to be released in two weeks after receiving approval from environment officials. At the same time the agency will move ahead with field testing of the mix recipes.

Those plans include preparation of work zones within the treatment area where contractors will mix hardening ingredients with contaminated sediment, prior to the full-scale project.

Marlene Kane, a concerned citizen who has been tracking the $400-million multi-year tar ponds cleanup, has been trying to access the data from the bench scale laboratory report since November 2007.

She said the report has been delayed for no good reason. "I guess I’d like to know why all the delays. And why they decided to combine the two," said Kane. "Things are suppose to be open and transparent. It would be much more appropriate to release the data to the public so they have an opportunity to review it and make comments regarding the reports."

Preparations for the upcoming field tests are already underway. A road has been constructed and equipment ordered. After field testing, a report will be submitted to the Department of Environment and, if approved, the agency will begin fullscale solidification of the tar ponds next spring. " The Pilot Scale Work Plan describes what we’re going to be doing and that’s based on the review of Environment who are the ones that have been authorized to judge if we’ve properly put together the correct plan for doing the pilot scale work," said Potter.

Kane also raised concerns over data missing from a field demonstration report on the cooling pond project. The report, which was released in April, included data from only two of 12 cells.

Potter said the report was missing data when it was released, but was available around the third week of July. The information was made available on the agency’s website as of Tuesday morning.

Potter said earlier tests revealed appropriate hardening of cement and slag mixture for the cooling pond. In turn, the Department of Environment gave the green light to complete the project, before all the data was known to the agency.

Kane said she also has concerns about a potential cost overrun of the $4.6-million cooling pond project after water and sludge amounts were found to be higher than the original design. Estimates for water increased 110 per cent compared to the original design and sludge amounts were 78 per cent higher, according to the agency.

Potter said the $4.6-million project estimate included a contingency amount — that, coupled with better prices than expected, allowed the agency to come in at $4,607,000.