Tar ponds agency answers 49 questions posed by Sydney residents

Cape Breton Post
By Chris Shannon
Sat. Aug. 29, 2009

Sydney - A group of residents in north end Sydney finally have answers to a list of 49 questions it posed to the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, many of which concern air quality and safety measures on the cleanup site.

Agency officials hand delivered the responses to residents, many of whom live on Intercolonial Street, adjacent to the tar ponds.

Wayne McKay, a spokesperson for the residents, said Friday he’s glad to finally have the answers to questions that have been gnawing at residents for months. McKay had yet to hear any feedback from the people he represents, but he did say some of the answers were satisfactory, while other answers required more information because of the technical nature of the responses.

A major concern in the north end is the process of air monitoring and how quickly that information is passed on to the community.

The tar ponds agency said in its response to several questions that it would implement "mitigative measures" that would "ensure the safety of workers, residents and the environment is maintained."

"I know there’s been large clouds of dust coming out of the site because things haven’t been watered down properly, so there may be some questions that arise out of what they’re actually doing with the mitigative procedures," McKay said.

The agency said to suppress unacceptable levels of suspended particulate it would use an odour suppressant foam, watering material or a work stoppage. In the case of an emergency on site, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality would be in charge of leading a large-scale evacuation of the neighbourhood, the agency said.

"The real-time monitoring only happens right on the work site. It doesn’t happen off the work site, so those monitors are every six days for a 24-hour period, which they stated, but the residents aren’t comfortable with that," McKay said.

Residents on Intercolonial Street became worried earlier this year upon learning the tar ponds agency sent a letter to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in August 2008 requesting a delay in the construction of a playground project on the other side of Intercolonial Street. The letter stated that "this current land use does not create a concern with respect to exposure to air contaminants."

The agency said additional studies would be required to demonstrate whether or not there are risks to users of the park, if it was completed and open to the public while the tar ponds cleanup remained in high gear. Those studies, the letter read, would result in additional cost and delay for the (tar ponds cleanup) project.

McKay said it was this letter that had many residents in the neighbourhood thinking if a park was potentially too dangerous for the public to use on a daily basis, then residents who live on the other side of the street may have legitimate contamination fears.

"(Residents) had the question of, ‘How is it possible that there may be a risk to children and people in the park and there’s no risk on the other side of the street?’ "(Residents) just couldn’t understand that and it’s kind of a question I still have."

He expected residents to meet to review the agency’s responses before possibly sending back followup questions to officials at the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.