May 17, 2004

Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup set to proceed with $400 million from Ottawa, Nova Scotia

It's official: the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and coke ovens is finally going ahead. Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm and Stephen Owen, federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services, last week signed a memorandum of agreement and announced up to $400 million in funding for the project. The province will provide $120 million, while the federal government will contribute up to $280 million.

The cleanup that will use proven, effective technologies to destroy the worst contaminants and treat the remaining material before encapsulating both sites with an engineered containment system. The sites will be restored and landscaped in a manner consistent with their natural surroundings and future use. Once the cleanup is completed, the province will assume ownership of the properties. The remediation project will be led and implemented by the province through the specially-created Sydney Tar Ponds Agency (STPA).

The project will proceed on several fronts over the coming months. The removal of the Domtar tank will conclude this summer. Design work will continue on a number of preventive works including the removal of the cooling pond, the construction of a cofferdam at Battery Point closing off the Tar Ponds from Sydney Harbour, the relocation of the Victoria Road water main, and the rerouting of Coke Ovens brook through Mullins Bank.

Governments will work with contractors to develop a detailed project description which will be subject to a joint environmental assessment. The assessment will outline measures needed to ensure that the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds is carried out in a way that protects the environment and human health.

The proposed cleanup will take ten years to complete and will create an estimated 2,700 person-years of employment. PCB-contaminated sediments in the Tar Ponds and the contents of the tar cell on the coke ovens site will be removed and destroyed using proven technology such as high-temperature incineration. The remaining material will be treated with bioremediation or solidification and stabilization, then encapsulated with an engineered containment system.

Over the last seven years, governments have been working with the community to assess the sites and collect detailed information to provide adequate understanding to enable governments to develop and carry out an effective cleanup plan. Significant groundwork-including the removal of derelict buildings, the capping of the old municipal landfill, and the installation of the interceptor sewer-has been completed to prepare the site for remediation.

The announcement of the cleanup was accompanied by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency's launch of a new Web site containing comprehensive information about the cleanup project. The site-http://gov.ns.ca/stpa-features detailed descriptions of the Tar Ponds and coke ovens, the cleanup plans for each site, technologies to be used in the cleanup, the history of cleanup efforts, and timelines (in print and chart formats) showing how various stages of the project will be carried out. Also on the site is a copy of the $400-million federal-provincial agreement signed on May 12.

There are sections for contractors and journalists, and a library where the public can download copies of all technical reports carried out in preparation for the cleanup.

The site also includes the latest air quality readings in Sydney, current contracts and pending tenders on the project, as well as examples of communities that successfully faced similar cleanup challenges.

More information is available from Parker Donham of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, 902/565-5555, E-mail parker@kempthead.ca.

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