Unexpected junk slowing down cleanup of Domtar tank

Debris visible in this photo is bogging up cleanup work at the Domtar tank
located at the coke ovens site in Whitney Pier. Shown is the inside of the
tank. It's expected the work will take another three months to complete
because of the junk. (Submitted photo: Conestoga Rovers & Associates)

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Oct. 8, 2003

Shopping carts, railway ties, cable, and other junk are slowing down clean up efforts at the Domtar tank in Whitney Pier. "It's taking much more time than we would have expected, said Walter van Veen, project manager for cleanup efforts at the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site. "We frequently have to stop the operation to free the material."

van Veen said the debris is clogging screens surrounding the pumps sucking the goo out of the tank to waiting tanker trucks travelling to a licenced incinerator in Quebec to burn the material. About 1,000 tonnes of coal tar oil is being removed.

It was anticipated by contractors Clean Harbors Canada Ltd. of Guelph, Ont., that the work, which began in August, would be completed by the end of October. Now it will likely be January before the work is done.

van Veen said it's hard to predict what would be inside the tank because so many people had access to it. There was a ramp that went to the lip of the structure until several years ago. It provided easy entry for those wishing to dispose of the objects, he added. The ramp was removed because it was creating a health and safety issue for those using it.

Once the sludge and tar is removed, contractors will reach a solid layer of material sitting at the bottom of the tank. "Then we'll get a good look at the solids and take samples of it," said van Veen. Because of the easy access, consultants want to make certain there are no surprises. "At this point it's a confirmation of what we believe we know."

Following that, the solids will be removed and likely disposed of at a landfill in Sarnia, Ont. Once the tank is empty, it will be power-washed inside and the steel will be chopped up and recycled, said van Veen. The contact is valued at $3.6 million.

Air monitoring is ongoing around the tank as well as the tank's exhaust, he said.