Tar ponds project still plagued by slow and inadequate communications

Cape Breton Post
Letter by Debbie Ouellette
Fri., Nov. 6, 2009

On Oct. 15 a small group attended the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency’s general open house to hear from project experts about what STPA calls the most significant part of the entire job: stabilization and solidification of the tar ponds. This short session was the only one offered to the public without appointment and it was held way out at Cape Breton University. This made it difficult for some local residents to attend.

When STPA was asked why the event wasn’t closer to the tar ponds where it would be more accessible to residents of that area, the excuse was that because of Celtic Colours places that would normally be booked were not available. After several phone calls we found that many of the places STPA has used in the past for open houses were indeed available. I even e-mailed STPA’s manager of communications to tell her there was a hall available closer to the site.

The presentation was a five-minute video which explained very little. I was in disbelief. Anyone learning about stabilization and solidification for the first time would leave not knowing anything. The music playing in the background of the video was so loud it almost drowned out the presentation. It might have been a hit at Celtic Colours but it didn’t help anyone understand what stabilization and solidification is all about.

When the public started asking questions, STPA’s project director kept cutting people off before their questions were out. It was very upsetting and very rude. The topic changed to problems with the communication department, which is not communicating with the public. I thought that was its job. Many questions asked by e-mail have been ignored, some going unanswered for many months. We have lots of questions about the cover-up project but we are not getting answers.

Debbie Ouellette