Ontario refinery wanted coal tar oil,
but regulations forced its incineration

Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

Coal tar oil housed in a tank at the coke ovens site was requested by an Ontario steel refinery for use but instead it was incinerated in a Quebec community despite residents' protests.

Environment Canada designated the material a hazardous waste, forcing its incineration.

The Montreal Gazette reported that steelmaking giant Stelco Inc. was prepared to accept the material for use at its steel refinery in Nanticoke, Ont., but was unable to because of the federal regulators' designation.

Instead, it was sent to an incinerator in Mercier, Quebec. Residents there spent about $20,000 fighting the incineration in their community as well as testing the material for PCBs. None were found.

Walter van Veen, project management consultant for work at the Sydney coke ovens and tar ponds, said a preliminary deal was reached between the Ontario refinery and Clean Harbours Inc., the environmental and waste management company contracted to dispose of 1,000 tonnes of coal tar oil from the Domtar tank located on the coke ovens site.

"However, the regulators at Environment Canada designated it a hazardous waste destined for recycling under the Inter- provincial Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations,"

It was designated hazardous because it was sitting in the tanks since the 1950s, not because of its character, he added. "Somethnnes regulations cannot always address every conceivable permutation of the world," said van Veen.

Although the steel refinery accepts coal tar oil for use on a regular basis and has a certificate of approval to do so, it would have taken time - likely months- to sort out the red tape surrounding the Sydney material. "We didn't have any time left to petition the people at the Ontario Ministry of Environment to ensure there wouldn't be any trouble," said van Veen.

When the federal designation was handed down, the decision was appealed by the project management consulting firm Conestoga Rovers & Associates, where van Veen is a consultant. "We had not expected it would get that designation early on in the project," he said.

Burning the material as opposed to using it didn't cost taxpayers more for the contract
- valued at $3.6 million - with Clean Harbours because the company's proposal was to simply dispose of it in a legal manner, said van Veen. There is a lot of similar coal tar remaining at the coke ovens site and the tar ponds but that doesn't mean it could be used in the steel industry as opposed to being disposed of, he added. However, there will be more time to deal with that if government determines it an option, said van Veen. Appropriate Environment Canada officials could not be reached for comment.