Northside residents reject the idea of burning Sydney's toxic sludge in NSP plant

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Sept. 17, 2003

Residents unanimously reject the idea of burning toxic sludge in their community, a message Sydney should get used to, says a provincial spokesperson.

The message?

"Don't burn it here," said Parker Donham, spokesperson for the provincial Sydney Tar ponds Agency.

A report on public meetings held in Point Aconi and surrounding communities on proposed cleanup technologies was recently released by the Joint Action Group.

It details the residents powerful rejection of the proposal to burn toxic sludge at a power plant owned by Nova Scotia Power and located in their backyards.

About 300 copies of that document are now available in the community including the local post office and grocery store. "I think an important message for the residents of Sydney is that whether you're talking Mercier, Que., Sarnia, Ont., or Point Aconi, Cape Breton, it does not fill any other community's heart with joy to learn tar ponds material may be coming their way," said Donham.

And, scientific advice doesn't seem to be a persuasive factor in those discussions, he added.

Sydney should be "mindful that there is considerable pressure" to find a local solution. Donham said JAG's recommendation to move and destroy toxic waste at the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites has yet to make it to cabinet but it's expected a presentation will be made in October.

As well as picking a technology, who will complete the work as well as how it will be paid for, are questions that need to be answered, he said. "They'r'e all difficult questions with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Nobody is going to rush into it," said Donham.

He said he is disappointed by Point Aconi's response. "It is the one option that would enable us to burn the material without creating any additional air emissions because we would be displacing a tonne of coal for every tonne of tar ponds material that we burned. Chemically, the materials are very, very similar and the experts assure us that they would produce virtually identical emissions."

It's too bad residents weren't open to that advice, he added.