Moving Domtar sludge an unpopular task

By Wes Stewart
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Nov. 5, 2005

SYDNEY - As sludge from the former Domtar tank continues to sit on a rail siding in Sydney, waiting for disposal, a spokesperson for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency says the notoriety attached to the cleanup has made it difficulty to accomplish routine tasks like getting it moved.

The 1,500 tonnes of sand and gravel mixed with coal tar material is bagged in heavy-duty plastic and rests in specially designed metal containers, ready for shipping. Bennett Environmental Inc. had agreed to burn the stuff at its incinerator in Belledune, N.B., but the contract was nixed by that province last month.

"We are still in discussion with the contractor and we are always hopeful a solution will be found," said Parker Donham. "The New Brunswick government decided there was no upside for them. There is the downside, because they get crapped on by a bunch of people about what they heard about Sydney."

"We've done a brilliant job creating a stigma about Sydney," Donham quipped. "Unfortunately, that limits our cleanup options because material that would be a routine disposal operation in any other context becomes extremely difficult to deal with because no one else wants to take on the (public relations) headache that we live with here in Sydney.

"There are a lot of places that dispose of this type of material every day, the issue is to find a place capable of doing it and willing to take on the notoriety that attaches to anything associated with Sydney's environmental cleanups. "People really need to think about this outcome, that disposing of something routine has become impossible for us because we have allowed so much exaggerated hype about our environmental problems. We've made people frightened of Sydney." Donham said the agency will get through the environmental review and get the cleanup done but so far it has been a long haul to the starting gate.

The Domtar tank material is in 88 containers on 23 rail cars. Donham said there is an urgency to get the material moved and out of the containers, which are needed in Louisiana for the hurricane disaster cleanup.

Clean Harbors Canada Inc. is contracted to clean up the sludge and remove the tank from the coke ovens site. "Our contract stipulates they guaranteed they will take it to the landfill in Sarnia." But that option also died when the community raised concerns about it being incinerated in their area.