Coal tar considered waste since 1997
Didn't cost taxpayers extra to burn
Coal tar oil housed in a tank at Sydney's coke ovens site was deemed waste since it was first assessed in 1997, say Environment Canada officials.
"It included materials from the old tank farm when it was demolished," said Maria Dober, advisor at Environment Canada. "It included sludge materials from the test burn for the incinerator, there were bore hole cuttings that were deposited in the tank and it was open so there was no restriction on what people could dump in." Because of that mixture, it was deemed a waste.
"From our perspective, based on the analytical data that we had available and based on the history of the tank as we knew it, we determined that it was going to be a hazardous waste."
The environmental assessment was shared with the province and the community before it was completed, she added.
What makes it a hazardous under federal regulations is the presence of naphthalene and benzene. Although the chemicals are normally found in coal-tar oil, Dober said federal regulations are different from provincial regulations and it's the federal designation for waste shipped inter-provincially that prevents it from being used in the making of steel at an Ontario company.
Stelco Inc. offered to use the 1,000 tonnes of coal tar oil at its refinery in Nanticoke, Ont., instead of burning it at a Quebec incinerator.
Walter van Veen, project management consultant for work at the Sydney coke ovens and tar ponds, has said a preliminary deal was reached between the Ontario refinery and Clean Harbors Inc., the environmental and waste management company contracted to dispose of the coal tar oil from the Domtar tank located on the coke ovens site.
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 federal red tape surrounding the Sydney material.
van Veen said the hazardous waste designation was appealed by the project management consulting firm Conestoga Rovers & Associates where van Veen is a consultant, but the original decision remains unchanged.
Burning the material as opposed to using it didn't cost taxpayers more for the contract - valued at $3.6 million - with Clean Harbors because the company's proposal was to simply dispose of it in a legal manner.