No firm date yet for tar ponds cleanup

Government still mulling over proposals

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Dec. 5, 2006

Sydney - This region will soon know if governments agree to proceed with the long-awaited cleanup of the community's toxic sites.

Following an intense public consultation process directed by a three-member joint review panel ending in May, a multitude of recommendations were forwarded to both provincial and federal governments to consider before final approval of the project. That decision is expected within the next three weeks.

Hubert Jacquin, spokesperson for Public Works and Government Services Canada, said no firm date is available but once ministers agree to sign a new cost-share agreement for the $400 million project, a public announcement can be expected. "I think they're very close to that," said Jacquin.

Once agreed, a team within public works will give the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency instructions to proceed with the project. "We're ready to move."

The role of public works will mainly consist of managing the federal government's interest in the cleanup, including the cost-share agreement, when work gets underway. "It's a question of being accountable, it's a question of being diligent in the financial and environmental management of the project so that the Canadian taxpayer knows where the money is going and how it's being spent," said Jacquin. "It's a very important element of our project."

There is a small public work office on Charlotte Street in Sydney. "Once the project goes, we're going to see where we're going with the process, our staff and the resources we require to continue the project," he said. "We may have more staff (in Sydney) when we get there."

Some of the recommendations governments are contemplating are that all stakeholders, including the public, be prepared to manage the project indefinitely. As well, further pilot-studies should be performed on proposed solidification and stabilization technologies before they're applied to the tar ponds. And the panel asked government to weigh the incineration of PCBs in the tar ponds against simply managing them in place.

Panel members also encouraged engineers to consider future site use so the projects design can tolerate viable and sustainable developments.