Public Works and Government Services Canada

Public Works and Government Services Canada

January 28, 2007 13:26 ET

Canada's New Government and Nova Scotia Invest $400 Million in the Environmental Cleanup of Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens

SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 28, 2007) - Canada's New Government and the Province of Nova Scotia today announced an historic step that clears the way for the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites cleanup to begin this spring.

After carefully considering recommendations made by the Joint Environmental Assessment Review Panel, the governments revealed the approach they will take to remediate the sites. The cleanup will concentrate on solidification, containment and capping of contaminated soils followed by site development and long-term monitoring and maintenance. It will not include incineration.

"This is a great day for the people of Sydney. Our agreement to move forward on cleaning up these contaminated sites demonstrates again the commitment of Canada's New Government to take concrete, measurable actions on environmental issues," said Michael M Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

"The clean-up of these sites is a priority for Canada's New Government to better protect the health of Canadians and the environment," said Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. "I commend the Joint Review Panel for its hard work and we are proud to be a part of the project to restore this area for future generations."

"As a Nova Scotian, I am particularly proud of the New Government's initiative in protecting and improving our environment. And it is with great pride that, with my colleagues' support, our government is taking concrete steps to address this major environmental concern," said Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

"Today's decision will bring a long-lasting, sustainable and environmentally responsible solution that the people of Cape Breton have been waiting for and deserve," said Angus MacIsaac, Nova Scotia Minister of Transportation and Public Works. "Having reached this important milestone, the Province of Nova Scotia is more determined than ever to complete the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites."

"The future cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites will be a great environmental achievement for Cape Breton," said Mark Parent, Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Labour. "Today's announcement is one step closer to making that achievement a reality."

The agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia will ensure the diligent and cost-effective management of the remediation project. The sites will be cleaned up on a cost-shared basis over eight years for a total of $400 million, with the federal government contributing $280 million and the province, $120 million.

The cleanup is expected to employ approximately 150 people during the construction season. The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency has developed an economic strategy designed to ensure local companies and First Nations businesses have full opportunity to participate in the project. In addition to the many short-term economic and social benefits, the cleanup will provide a lasting legacy to the community.

The Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia are extremely pleased with the outcome of the environmental assessment process and thank the members of the Environmental Assessment Joint Review Panel for their dedication in helping achieve the best solution for the community and the environment.

Attached are backgrounders describing the environmental assessment review process, the cleanup plan for the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites, and the roles and responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments in the cleanup.

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Photos available upon request. Please contact Hubert Jacquin at 902-830-5742.



Backgrounder

Environmental Assessment Process

Pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens remediation project was subject to an Environmental Assessment (EA) process. It was decided that a review panel was the most appropriate type of environmental assessment for this project.

In 2005, an independent Environmental Assessment Joint Review Panel was formed to examine project plans for the remediation of the sites. The Panel looked at the environmental effects of the proposed project and recommended strongly that the governments undertake a risk-based analysis in order to consider a process of containment and capping of all materials as opposed to incineration of some materials and containment and capping of the remainder. This risk-based analysis, along with consideration of extensive community input during the environmental assessment process, indicated that the preferred option did not include incineration.

Today's announcement constitutes a formal response to the Environmental Assessment Joint Review Panel report.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency can now begin the cleanup. Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works will monitor the project to ensure it is delivered in a way that is environmentally sound and protective of the community's health.

The Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia will ensure the diligent and cost-effective management of the remediation project. The sites will be cleaned up on a cost-shared basis over eight years, with the federal government contributing $280 million toward the $400-million project and the province contributing $120 million.

Upon completion of the project, Nova Scotia will take ownership of the sites, including current federal properties, and will be responsible for future maintenance and monitoring associated with the sites.

For more information on the Environmental Assessment process, please consult our Office of Greening Government Operations Web site at: http://www.pwgsc.gc.ca/greening.



Backgrounder

Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Cleanup Action Plan

On January 28, 2007, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia announced their plan to cleanup the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens. The plan involves stabilizing, solidifying, and capping the sediments to prevent contaminants from entering the environment.

To date, significant work has been completed to prepare for the main cleanup project, including the appointment of a project management and engineering firm, the construction of Battery Point Barrier, and the realignment of Coke Ovens Brook, as well as the completion of a rigorous environmental assessment of the cleanup plan.

The cleanup project will use technologies employed successfully at similar sites throughout North America. The plan rests on years of technical evaluation and an extensive environmental assessment undertaken over the last year. It involves the following milestones:

- Winter and spring, 2007 - The implementation of the main cleanup project will be ready to proceed in accordance with a rigorous Environmental Management Plan to ensure that all project activities are carried out in an environmentally responsible manner.

- Early spring, 2007 - The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency will begin issuing tenders for the cleanup work.

- Late spring, 2007 - Contractors will begin building more than two kilometres of channels through the Tar Ponds. The channels will let clean water from Coke Ovens Brook and Wash Brook pass through the ponds without picking up contaminants. They will also isolate work areas from brook and tidal waters, allowing construction to take place.

- Spring and summer, 2008 - Sediments from the old channel of Coke Ovens Brook will be removed and transported elsewhere on site for stabilization and solidification. The brook bed will be lined with high-density polyethylene, then covered with gravel so surface water can drain off the site without becoming contaminated.

- Summer 2008 to early 2012 - Sediments in the Tar Ponds will be stabilized, solidified, and capped. Stabilization and solidification involves mixing sediments with cement powder and other hardening agents. Solidified areas will be covered with an engineered cap consisting of a high-density polyethylene liner or clay, followed by layers of gravel and soil. The surface will be planted with grass and other vegetation.

- Summer 2008 to Spring 2012 - Contractors will construct a layered cap over contaminated sections of the Coke Ovens.

- Spring 2009 to summer 2012 - Contractors will stabilize, solidify, and cap the Tar Cell.

- Throughout - Regulators, the Independent Engineer and the Health Working Group will monitor the project from start to finish to ensure it is carried out in a safe, environmentally responsible manner, so the contaminants do not pose a health risk.

- Following the project - The province will establish a long-term monitoring program to document improvements in the water quality of Sydney Harbour.

- Governments will work with the community to develop plans for future uses of the cleaned-up sites.



Backgrounder

Federal and Provincial Governments' Roles in the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens Sites Cleanup Project

Public Works and Government Services Canada

Public Works and Government Services Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada, will monitor the project along with their partner, the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works. Both parties, with the assistance of other federal and provincial departments and advice from the Environmental Management Committee, will ensure that the project is being delivered in a way that is environmentally sound and protects the community's health. They will also ensure the project is managed in an effective and accountable manner that protects taxpayers' interests. The Government of Canada is contributing $280 million toward this $400 million project, and the Province of Nova Scotia is contributing $120 million.

Nova Scotia Transportation and Public Works

The Department of Transportation and Public Works is the province's lead for the $400 million federal-provincial Cost-Share Agreement for the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Oven sites. Together with Public Works and Government Services Canada, Nova Scotia Transportation and Public Works (NSTPW) co-manages the administration of the cost-shared funding in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement between the federal and provincial governments signed on May 12, 2004.

To effectively protect the federal and provincial governments' interests in the project, NSTPW has contracted the services of an independent engineering consultant, for the life of the project. The role of the engineering consultant is to make sure all design and remediation activities undertaken by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency are conducted in accordance with the conditions of the Memorandum of Agreement. This includes technical, financial, and environmental and project management requirements.

Nova Scotia Environment and Labour

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour will act as the lead agency for regulatory oversight of the remediation project through the conditions of Environmental Assessment approval and subsequent approvals required pursuant to the Nova Scotia Environment Act.

The department will work with other provincial and federal agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to project review and regulatory management. In addition, the Minister of Environment and Labour will establish an independent Remediation Monitoring Oversight Board to monitor regulatory management of the project.

Sydney Tar Ponds Agency

On September 10, 2004, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency was established as a single purpose, special operating agency to carry out the project jointly managed by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. The Agency is responsible for the day-to-day operations related to the oversight of various technical aspects of the project including design, contracting and overall project management. More information on the Agency is available on their Web site at www.tarpondscleanup.ca.



Backgrounder

Incineration and the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites

Following the Environmental Assessment Review Panel's recommendations, the two governments analyzed the risks, costs and benefits associated with carrying out the cleanup using incineration versus not using incineration. Based on their analysis, they concluded that carrying out the project without incineration carries lower risks and costs and higher benefits than with incineration.

Contaminants found on the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens sites

One hundred years of steel and coke production left more than a million tons of contaminated soil and sediment on four sites around the former steel mill in Sydney: the Tar Ponds themselves, the former Coke Ovens property, an old dump uphill from the Coke Ovens, and a stream that carried contaminants from the Coke Ovens to the Tar Ponds.

Four types of contaminants were produced in the process used to turn coal into coke, a key ingredient in steel production: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

You can learn more about these contaminants by visiting the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency Web site: http://www.tarpondscleanup.ca

The approach the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia will use to cleanup the sites involves stabilizing, solidifying, and capping the sediments to prevent contaminants from entering the environment, followed by site development and long-term monitoring and maintenance.

Regulators and the independent engineer will monitor the cleanup of the sites from start to finish to ensure it is carried out in a safe, environmentally responsible manner. The Health Working Group, composed of health specialists from the community, the Cape Breton District Health Authority, and the provincial and federal departments of Health, will also monitor the project and will report and provide advice to the Environmental Management Committee.

PWGSC news releases are also available on our Internet site at www.pwgsc.gc.ca/text/generic/media-e.html.

Contact Information

  • Jean-Luc Benoit
    Office of Minister Fortier
    819-997-5421
    or
    Public Works and Government Services Canada
    Media Relations
    819-956-2315
    or
    Nova Scotia Transportation and Public Works
    Dan Davis
    902-424-8978
    Cellular: 902-225-2501
    davisds@gov.ns.ca