Firm hired for tar ponds review

By T.J. Colello
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Oct. 4, 2004

SYDNEY ó AMEC Earth and Environmental Ltd. has won a contract to prepare the environmental impact statement for the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup, in an announcement made by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Sunday.

The international environmental consulting firm, which has a Sydney-based staff of 12, will prepare the impact statement as part of the legally required environmental assessment of the cleanup. AMEC will also help the agency make representations to federal and provincial regulatory authorities overseeing the environmental assessment. "We could have just massively ramped up the staff of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency and hired a bunch of environmental engineers to do this, but itís (AMECís) stock and trade," said Parker Donham, spokesperson for the agency. "Theyíre a very experienced company with a tonne of experience in Atlantic Canada."

Donham said the agency is in the final stages of preparing a project description, which specifies exactly what the clean-up project entails. A scoping document will then be prepared to establish how far away a particular site would be impacted by the work being done. The scoping document will be up for public scrutiny. "For example, if we are trucking gravel from Upper Ambrosia, do we need to examine the impacts in that community and in communities along the route? The scoping document will settle such questions," said Donham. "Itís a statement of exactly how far we have to go in assessing an impact." AMEC will then take the project description and the scoping document and prepare an environmental impact statement, which will list all the potential adverse impacts of every component of the project.

The firm will also produce an environmental impact assessment which will describe the measures the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency will take to mitigate potential impacts. Both the environmental impact statement and the environmental impact assessment made by AMEC is part of an overall environmental assessment being conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Agency. "Then, the CEAAA renders an opinion to the federal minister of environment as to whether the mitigated measures weíve proposed are adequate to prevent harm from the project," said Donham.

The environmental assessment is the last step required before work on the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup can begin. The federal and provincial governments have committed $400 million to the 10-year project. While the environmental assessment is underway, work on four preliminary projects designed to prevent environmental harm will begin over the next two years. They include the re-routing of the coke ovens brook, the remediation of the Sysco cooling pond, the replacement of the Whitney Pier water main and the construction of a coffer dam between Battery Point and the Sysco piers.

No decision has been made on which type of environmental assessment will be carried out by CEAAA. They include a screening, a comprehensive study and a full panel review by independent experts.