Tar ponds work: half full or half empty?

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By Elizabeth Patterson - Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Cape Breton content in the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens remediation project is just over 50 per cent, a figure that cheers some and disappoints others.

As the project moves toward completion in 2014, it’s also looking as though it’s going to come in on budget and no longer be contaminating Sydney harbour.

In minutes recently released from community liaison committee meetings in March, along with a project update, committee members learned the total budget of the project is $400 million, with just under $320 million spent by the end of last year, constituting 80 per cent of the total. Expenditures came from public engagement (1.6 per cent), the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency (6.7 per cent), environmental assessment (1.6 per cent), preliminary works (5.3 per cent), preventative works (4.3 per cent), project works (62.7 per cent), impact joint panel report (14 per cent) and independent engineer (3.8 per cent). Cape Breton content on those expenditures ranged from 48.7 per cent on project works to 93.6 per cent for the project agency, but averaged out at 51 per cent. Overall Canadian content averaged 94 per cent.

According to the minutes, the amount of Cape Breton content disappointed some on the community liaison committee, including Cape Breton Partnership executive director Keith MacDonald. However, Sydney Tar Ponds Agency project director Donnie Burke saw it more as an accomplishment.

“We don’t have a lot of manufacturing. We’ve got a supply-based economy here so we don’t manufacture pipe, we don’t manufacture cement. These are all raw materials or products that come from other places in Canada or other places in Nova Scotia,” he said. “The 51 per cent I would celebrate in the sense that over half of all dollars spent on materials and the like were spent on local products versus when we carry in the pricing on other things — cement being a major part on the solidification stabilization process; there are no cement kilns in Cape Breton — so that came from somewhere else in Nova Scotia.

“I’m quite happy about it, to be honest with you, and I would say that it would meet our expectations in terms of what we have here based on industry and supply. It’s something to celebrate.”

The minutes also stated that Randy Vallis, director of the tar ponds and coke ovens remediation project, said that more than 800 kilograms of contaminants annually had migrated into the harbour in the past but now nothing is going in, which is what the committee and everyone surrounding the project had wanted in the first place. Burke explained how that happened.

“As part of the project during the remediation, we had instituted a marine effects monitoring program and prior to that there were all kinds of studies that had taken place with the contaminants in the tar ponds,” Burke said. “Prior to us doing any work, it was known, based on data, that just over 800 kilograms per year of sediment was leaving the tar ponds and flowing into the harbour, carried off on waters, through tidal action and erosion.

“We knew that was happening and that was actually one of the goals of the project was to eliminate that so by performing the remediation, doing the solidification-stabilization and the capping and constructing new channels that actually went through zones with clean rock bottom and clean rock sides, we’re able to prove as we went on the project, this amount, over the different years of construction, decreased to the point where we actually saw it go down to zero.”

Burke said the project is trending to be on budget, which has been the goal since the beginning.

When remediation is complete by March 31, 2014, Nova Scotia will take ownership of the lands and will maintain and monitor the property in accordance with the long-term maintenance and monitoring agreement signed  March 29, 2012.

Organizations: Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Cape Breton Partnership

Geographic location: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Sydney Canada

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Recent comments

  • oh my
    May 16, 2013 - 19:26

    oh my and i go down to sydney every year to get a feed of lobster.from the wharfs lobster pound.from new glasgow.makes me ill to think of my meal was eating stuff comming from the tar ponds. i think i will stick to a burger and fries next time

  • Bruno Marcocchio
    May 16, 2013 - 10:15

    The CLC minutes document that PAH migration to Sydney Harbour INCREASED tenfold during remediation. No cleanup took place and our grankids will want to know why we wasted 400 million instead of a cleanup. PAH will cotinue to leak into the harbour thanks to ignoring the Panel warning to keep the watercourse and waste separated. Instead the water runs right through the centre of the waste. What a tragic waste of money.