Minister presumes too much to say people happy with tar ponds cleanup agency

Letter by Debbie Ouellette
Cape Breton Post
Mon., Nov. 10, 2008

I don't agree with Transportation Minister and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Murray Scott when he says people living around the tar ponds are pleased with the progress made by the Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup Agency (Gosse Calls STPA 'a Mess', Nov. 7).

Many questions are being asked of the experts. Marlene Kane had to wait more than three months to get air-monitoring questions answered, and then only partially.

Some of my questions took months to get a response. Only after sending the same questions up to six times to STPA communication's officer Tanya Collier MacDonald did I get a short and sweet response or not a complete answer.

I believe she is not getting information out to the public like it should be done. Open houses are not the way to go. If all the information concerning the work on these sites were posted on the STPA website in a timely matter, many of my questions would be answered. I've been told that because I ask too many questions any further questions will have to be asked through Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy law which will cost me at least $25 for each request. I'm concerned when documents that should be made public aren't and have to be accessed through FOIPOP.

When Ms. Kane reviewed the cooling pond document page by page she found that a lot of data was missing. She called it the shoddiest report she had ever seen. After that was reported in the news, STPA agreed that data was missing and posted 70 pages on its website the next day. Ms. Kane obtained documents through FOIPOP with parts blacked out. She has requested that those blacked out areas be released by the freedom of information review officer.

All information should be make public. This is where we lose trust in the consultants and governments. If STPA can't even produce a report, what kind of job is it doing in the field? We should all be very nervous. How many are not doing their job in STPA or in Earth Tech, a company being paid $30 million?

It's not only Frank Potter who should be replaced. A complete audit should be done on how all taxpayers' dollars have been spent and a complete breakdown should be made public. David Darrow, deputy minister of public works and infrastructure renewal, should also be looking at how all the consultants who work for STPA are doing their jobs.

After cooling pond work was done, areas began sinking. The first week of November workers were seen covering over the mistake, trying to fill in and level out the holes that were sinking. What can we expect when work of the tar ponds and coke ovens progresses?

It's time now that all Community Liaison Committee meetings were opened to the public. Some CLC members are complaining they get to see information only when the documents are final. They have no input. A small number of them have concerns about the project and ask questions but when the minutes are posted on the STPA website not all the concerns are mentioned. The minutes are edited so that the public can't see the concerns raised.

What does STPA have to hide? Obviously an awful lot.

Former Frederick Street resident:
Debbie Ouellette