Imagine 2010 looks at tar ponds opportunities

By Nancy King
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Oct. 2, 2004

Delegates from across North America and beyond have converged on the University College of Cape Breton for an environmental conference and trade show intended to show how the region can turn the challenges associated with environmental cleanup into development opportunities.

About 150 delegates involved in various aspects of remediation projects are taking part in the Imagine 2010 event, said Rick Joseph, executive director of the Nova Scotia Environmental Industry Association, the association hosting the conference in partnership with the Cape Breton Growth Fund and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour. It began Thursday evening and continues today, concluding with a tour of the Sydney tar ponds site. "We have engineering firms, people from the United States, from Germany, from all over Canada," Joseph said. "It brings people in from other areas that have experience in similar situations that we have here with the tar ponds."

The wide range of presentations on 20 topics such as the economic benefits of remediation projects and managing environmental risks during cleanup were among the highlights of the conference, he added. "They are not only a futuristic look at the potential for what happens after weíve cleaned up the tar ponds, but also how the community and how local companies can get involved in that process," Joseph said.

The keynote address was presented by Dr. Freidrick von Bismark, who is in charge of the program to remediate East German lignite mining areas. "We have in Germany a very similar setting," von Bismark told The Cape Breton Post. "We had an industry that collapsed, which was going on for nearly 100 years. After it collapsed we had three sets of problems - environmental problems, unemployment, and a community not prepared for such a situation."

Since the German cleanup began in the early í90s the landscape has changed dramatically, von Bismark noted. "I really wish a lot of people here could see how things have changed," he said, noting the name of the conference, Imagine 2010, was apropos. "We had a vision in Germany that we could turn hazardous waste into beautiful landscape. Now itís not a vision, we are sure the landscape will be beautiful and we have a lot of additional private investment coming in after the remediation."

Charles Wilk, of the Portland Cement Association, was a presenter at the conference on use of solidification and stabilization technology for remediation, one of the technologies selected for the tar ponds cleanup. "Itís critical to us as an industry that this technology gets a good start in Canada," he said, noting itís used commonly in the U.S.

"Sydney is about where we were at in 1992, asking the same questions about this technology," added Darahyl Dennis, of the Georgia Power Company, who presented data on when it was used in Columbus, Georgia. "I think a lot of the information presented today is going to be useful (to Sydney).