Work halted at former steel plant site

By Erin Pottie
Cape Breton Post
Fri., Sept. 25, 2009

Sydney - Remediation work at the former Sydney steel plant site has been halted following a strong odour that wafted through a Whitney Pier neighbourhood this week.

The provincial Crown corporation Nova Scotia Lands Inc., which is responsible for remediating and redeveloping the remainder of the steel plant properties, was told to cease work at an area known as the "high dump" until a plan for odour control and improvements to air monitoring is submitted to the provincial Department of Environment.

"With the incident yesterday we just want to be cautious going forward," said Jason Catoul, an inspector specialist from Nova Scotia Environment. "They do have approval for the work thatís going on onsite but because of the concern that was raised yesterday and the odour that was created, weíve asked for, and theyíve agreed to submit, a more detailed work plan."

At least four complaints were reported Wednesday by residents living on the east side of the former Sysco site, including Dominion Street resident Kelly Grant. Grant was working in his yard when he noticed a strange smell and said it appeared almost as a haze over the area. Gary Campbell, president of Nova Scotia Lands Inc. said Wednesday, workers were solidifying coal tar byproduct shipped over from Newfoundland and a combination of winds and wind direction and warm temperatures caused an odour to travel the area.

Campbell said the coal tar that workers are processing are remnants of Cape Bretonís once booming steel industry. The material had originally been sent to Newfoundland to power a paper mill that has since shut down. "There was about a tanker load of it and thereís another about half a load yet to come," said Campbell. "If we ship material away and it canít be used... if they donít have a way to use it... then it would be sent back here." To allow the liquid to flow from the tanker truck it had to be warmed, said Campbell. That heat, plus mixing material with other solidifying materials such as fly ash can create more heat, which can cause an odour, said Campbell.

About half-a-day or a full-day of work is left to complete the coal tar solidification. Approximately 30,000 litres of the byproduct will be treated onsite with another 15,000 litres to be shipped from Newfoundland.

Environment officials said Nova Scotia Lands Inc. does have an air monitoring program but no exceedance was recorded Wednesday at the fence line of the property.