Coke Ovens Brook to be diverted

By Steve MacInnis
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Aug. 27, 2005

The announcement Friday of a $6.3-million contract to divert contaminants from the Coke Ovens Brook was hailed as yet another milestone in the cleanup of Canadaís worst toxic waste dump.

Nova Scotia Energy Minister Cecil Clarke said the construction of two new water channels is the first concrete step to cleaning up the coke ovens site and ultimately the infamous, and highly toxic, Sydney tar ponds. "This will give Sydney residents a chance to see how our former industrial lands can be safely managed and restored," said Clarke, in describing the project which began Friday and is not expected to be completed until December 2006.

Clarke was joined at the announcement by municipal, provincial and federal officials, including Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking, who suspects the project will have a favourable psychological effect on local residents who can actually see work being done after years of studies and considerable debate.

The clean up of Coke Ovens Brook - which runs into the tar ponds - is one of the last stages before officials tackle the remediation of the tar ponds which contain a toxic cocktail of chemicals and heavy metals, such as PCBs, left behind after nearly a century of steel making. Previous projects on the road to the cleanup have included the capping of the municipal landfill and the construction of an interceptor sewer line complete with a new waste treatment facility. Leachate from the landfill will be collected and run through the interceptor sewer line. The brook contract was awarded to RDL Construction of Sydney and is expected to create 20 jobs.

The Coke Ovens Brook now flows diagonally across the coke ovens site and provides the perfect path for a host of contaminants to flow directly into the ponds. With sewer outfalls now being redirected to the new Battery Point treatment plant, the plan now is to divert waterways away from the ponds.

The design for the project was completed by ADI Limited and company spokesperson Brain Latimer said the brook will be divided into two branches.

The north branch will run along the Whitney Pier side of the former coal railway and will collect flows from several smaller brooks along the way. It will cross under the tracks and the Sydney Port Access Road and follow a rail spur to the coke ovens site.

The south branch will begin at the top of Vulcan Avenue and weave its way through an area known as Mullenís Brook until it merges with Cagney Brook then turns north to run parallel to Victoria Road. The two channels will meet near the Victoria Road overpass.

Latimer said part of the new south channel will be piped underground and portions of both channels will be lined with a synthetic material to prevent recontamination.

In addition, special attention has been paid to restoring and creating a clean environment for fish habitat.

The project has the blessing of both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour which granted approval after an environmental screening.

Latimer said excavated contaminants will be stored on site and disposed of as part of the tar ponds cleanup. A number of options have been selected for the cleanup, including incineration and encapsulation, but a full panel environmental assessment must be completed before any options are affirmed. He said stringent measures will also be in place to protect nearby residents including round-the-clock air monitoring.