Delegation examines five cleanup projects in Alberta, United States

By Chris Shannon
Cape Breton Post
Fri., Oct. 21, 2005

SYDNEY - Officials from the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, citizen liaison committee and federal government were among a group which toured five toxic waste sites in northern Alberta and the United States.

The purpose of the tour that has taken the 13 delegates to Swan Hills, Alta., Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., Fox River, Wis. and Bedford, Mass. is to look at how those communities handled their own environmental cleanups.

The group, which arrives back in Sydney today, was joined by members of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, Cape Breton University and Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillors Vince Hall and Charlie Long.

The chairperson of the citizen liaison committee a group of community and business leaders whose mandate is to meet monthly with project managers of the tar ponds cleanup said that it's nice knowing Sydney isn't alone in its attempt to rid itself of harmful contaminants plaguing a community.

Alastair MacLeod said Thursday the group has been impressed with the partnerships formed in the various cleanups that ranged from modest to sophisticated.
"There is huge cooperation between the various partners in the process. We're talking about federal, state and municipal officials," he said during a telephone interview from Boston. "They have worked together and we've seen them in the same room in a very open and respectful manner, as opposed to being competitive or secretive."

He wouldn't say whether the three levels of government here could take a few lessons in teamwork from their American counterparts. "I don't want to get critical at our own arrangement." The group toured areas along Fox River, Wis., where seven million tonnes of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, lay in the riverbed as a result of dumping by papermaking and recycling plants as recent as the early 1990s. This compares with 30,000 tonnes of PCB sediments in the Sydney tar ponds.

Parker Donham, spokesperson for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said they concentrated on the various incineration, capping and dredging technologies during the $35,000 fact-finding trip, which was cost-shared between the federal and provincial governments.

Sydney's cleanup could also advise several of the other projects in cases such as publishing air monitoring results, Donham said. "Most of the cleanups we went to publish air monitoring results to some extent but not all of them publish everything they have as soon as they get it, which is our policy," he said.

Still, MacLeod holds in high regard the "high level of openness" the cleanup operations have with the public. He said he'd like to see a greater level of public involvement in the Sydney cleanup, but that's yet to be seen. "Our public is a little jaded: We've gone to the model we have in the CLC and maybe we can approach a more public relationship in the future," said MacLeod. The citizen liaison committee meets monthly, however its discussions are closed to the public.