Sydney cleanup could be showcase

Letter to the editor from Colin Isaacs
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Sept. 18, 2004

It appears that the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is more interested in battling the Sierra Club than in sharing sound scientific information with the readers of the Cape Breton Post. (Sierra Club, Tar Ponds Agency still at odds over cleanup, September 10). Sierra Club is quite correct when it says that contaminated site clean-up technologies have advanced a great deal in the last 20 years. Many new technologies, including the gas phase chemical reduction technology which Sierra Club has mentioned, have been given operating permits in Canada and in other countries. To describe them as "experimental" is a distortion of the facts.

It would be most unfortunate if the Tar Ponds Agency is allowed to proceed with a clean-up using anything other than the very best available technology. Not only do the people of Sydney deserve the best possible permanent cleanup, but the best possible cleanup will also increase Canada's recognition for environmental expertise in the international community. This will help increase sale of excellent Canadian environmental technology and services around the world. A substandard cleanup will seriously damage Canada's international environmental reputation.

If the project is properly planned, best available need not mean most expensive and should not involve any further delay.

Some months ago, David McGuinty, at the time the Executive Director of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and now a Liberal MP, proposed on national CBC radio that the Sydney Tar Ponds project should be a showcase for the very best remediation technology available in Canada. He further proposed that the clean-up project could become the core of a Centre of Excellence for site remediation technology that would attract visitors and remediation technology buyers from all over the world.

In addition to getting the site cleaned up in the best possible way, a Centre of Excellence would bring significant economic benefits to Sydney and to Canada.

The approach that McGuinty proposed is the essence of Sustainable Development - an approach to designing activities and project in such a way that they provide employment and other social benefits, economic growth, and the cleanest possible environment. The Federal government has made a strong commitment to the Sustainable Development approach.

Given the strong federal investment in the project and the Sustainable Development opportunity that will be lost if the Tar Ponds Agency is allowed to proceed using anything less than the best available technology, I have written to Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, asking her to conduct an investigation into whether or not the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is spending federal funds in a way which is consistent with the federal government's commitment to Sustainable Development.

Colin Isaacs
Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment,
Fisherville, Ontario