Important step in tar ponds cleanup officially begins

Cape Breton Post
By Greg McNeil
Fri., Nov. 20, 2009

SYDNEY - A key step in the tar ponds cleanup is now underway.

The solidification and stabilization process officially began Thursday following a media launch. "It will be just like making a cake at home," said Donnie Burke, project director for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. "We are adding the ingredients and we are putting the bucket into the sludge with the cement and mixing it all up to a homogeneous mixture. Then we leave it there to set."

The contractors for the $50-million project are Nordly’s Environmental (owned by J&T van Zutphen Construction Inc. of Southwest Mabou) and ECC of Marlborough, Massachusetts.

They’ll mix cement, water and other ingredients into the contaminated material to contain and immobilize the hazardous contaminants.

Burke said this part of the cleanup should give the public the sense that the remediation work has finally begun. "I grew up in this area and went through school, as probably a lot of people have, wondering if this is ever going to happen. It has been a big month for us in the fact that it is happening and we are seeing it happening."

Before the project went to tender, a pilot project was also carried out. The information learned during the pilot was supplied to bidders. "It is pretty when you look out, but when you look close, it is some pretty nasty stuff," said Vince van Zutphen, president of Nordly’s Environmental.

"There is always an ooze of oil products coming out of it that have been going in the harbour forever. Three years from now, hopefully, it will look like a park here." He said controlling dust is the biggest challenge of the project. "Productivity and quality, I think we have under control, but the dust can be a real issue depending which way the wind blows on any given day and the moisture conditions."

Van Zutphen said there have been no issues, to date. "We haven’t been coming close to our limits on dust, but this is not the dry time of year. Summer season will probably be our biggest challenge."

Burke said dust can be one way material can get off the site. "That is one of the biggest controls and measures that you’ll see on the project ... the fact we are compensating for these areas."

Solidification and stabilization work is expected to be completed by March 2014.